Everyone Needs a Cycling Friend or Eight:  68 Miles Amongst some of Mine.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this season has been my cycling friends.  With Mike out of commission till October, the dynamic is different but we’re getting by.  Mike is the glue of our group so without him, we’re just kind of bopping around.

We have, however, managed.

Chuck, Phill, Ethan and I headed south yesterday, to change things up a bit.  To start, it was awesome – we were the only vehicles on the road.  Sadly that didn’t last… and our normal route down to the General Motors Proving Grounds, which features roads as smooth as a baby’s butt, was shut down for bridge repair so not only did traffic suck, the road almost resembled Swiss cheese.  In fact, I was going to write “the road was Swiss cheese”, but I thought, “C’mon Jim, no paved road is Swiss cheese, you can’t write that.”  Folks, I got a pinch flat with a brand new set of tires that only had 50 miles on them.  It was my second pinch flat.  Ever.  In 30,000+ miles. It was bad.

Anyway, we cruise around the Proving Grounds, and on the way around Chuck had a guy proposition him out the window of his pickup truck with another man driving.  I couldn’t believe it!  Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, I guess…  So this guy announces out the window that he’s a “c***sucker”, I’m assuming with the hope that Chuck would stop pedaling and drop his shorts right there, but my word people!  What’s up with the promiscuity?! Where’s the tact?!  That doesn’t happen in real life!  Especially with a group of straight guys riding bikes, in Lycra!

Anyway, I shouted back, “No thanks”, as they sped away.  

From there, we headed over to Kensington Metropark and then Mitford.  Ethan was hungry and wanted a sammich before the journey home.  Chuck led the way to Tim Horton’s where we could get us a good Old Fashioned pompous bacon, sausage, egg and cheese bagel.  Why pompous, you wonder?!  Tim Horton’s is Canadian.  They put pompous in the water up there.

Fortunately there are Canadian people, like my friend, Sue, who apparently drink Fiji water instead.  I digress…

We sat and ate and lamented the fact that Ethan would be moving to the west side of the State next week amd we laughed about the guy who wanted to give Chuck a… well, you know.  Then we headed home.  

We all took turns in the wind and made decent time.  The skies turned ugly but held off the rain till we made it to the parking lot and had time to load up and head home.  It rained for the next four hours straight.

Anyway, I typically never kept a lot of friends as a younger lad.  I had a negative impression of myself, I thought I was ugly, so I only ever let a few people in.  

Thank God, getting and staying sober transformed me into the person I am, because I have a lot of friends today. 

Cycling friends are the best.  We ride together, we laugh, we bump fists, and we go home to our lives.  No BS…  Just miles and laughs.  

So why eight, when we clearly only had four?  Dude, how much time do you want to spend up front, overachiever?  The more the merrier, bro!  

Riding a Bicycle for Sanity…

My Friday morning was hectic.  I’m working on bidding and selling a huge job, it’ll be the biggest of my career if I land it – and I’m heading out to a kickoff meeting for another giant next Wednesday.  

My wife and I decided to squeeze our ride in at noon because, thankfully, lunchtime is still quite sacred.  One minute after 1 pm my phone blew up, figuratively, while we were hanging out at the shop.

I rode home as fast as I could…  Put it this way, my wife was struggling a little so our first 20 miles were done at 17 mph.  By the time I rolled into the driveway just five miles later, the average was up to 18. 

I had to head out, all the way over to the west side of the State to pick up some material for a job I’m doing down in Ann Arbor.  Not quite sniffing water “west” but close.  Then I had to drop it off at one of my guy’s house in Lansing…. before getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way home.  Take away my hour and a half bike ride and I put in a fifteen hour day yesterday – and it wasn’t one of those fun fifteen hour days.  It was a Monday.  Just on a Friday.

As I was sitting in that traffic jam, I started looking for alternate routes around it.  It just so happens I was just outside of one of the towns we ride to once or twice a month.  I knew exactly how to get back.  The people trying to avoid the traffic jam stuck to the two easy routes around the backup while I enjoyed quiet country roads, almost devoid of traffic, all the way home.  Because I ride a bike. 

A ride makes a day better almost every time.  Sometimes the bike ride is the only thing that goes right in a day, but this was the first time a bike ride salvaged a messed up day.

I spent the last half hour of my trip home contemplating how lucky and grateful I was for my family, friends and cycling.  How about that.

All Dressed Up… and a BUNCH of Places to Go…

If you want to know if you’re in good shape, go for a 100 mile bike ride.  You’ll know.  

If you want to gauge your passion for cycling, try four in a row.

I got my front wheel back from the shop yesterday.  I picked it up on the way home and had it installed, with new decals on both wheels, and new S-Works tires, before heading out the door on my rain bike.  Total time needed to get everything done, 30 minutes.

After taking a day off the bike on Wednesday for thunderstorms, it looked like we were going to be rained out again, yesterday.  There was a reason I took the rain bike – it was lookin’ ugly outside and it had been pouring rain just an hour before.
I hate rain days but I hate taking summer days off the bike more, so my wife and I risked it and headed out the door around 5:30.

It looked ugly a few times but in the end, we did spend most of the ride in the sunshine and didn’t get hit with so much as a drop.

For the weekend, we’ll be taking it easy with a couple of 100k’s over Saturday and Sunday.  There are no major rides this weekend as DALMAC is on us.  Now many would assume this would be what people call a “taper” week, but we all know my stance on tapering; I’ll taper when I’m dead.

The Body Mass Index is a Tool, though A Greater Tool Exists…

My body mass index (BMI) currently sits at 24, on the nose.  For every pound that I gain over my current 177 pounds, I go up a tenth of a point.  24.9 is the final cutoff between “okay” and “overweight”

Going by a standard, non-gender specific calculator, I’m at the high-end of my proper weight.  If I go by the calculator that factors in age and gender, however, I’m smack-dab right in the middle of perfect:

BMI calculators are tricky things though.  No online calculator can take my larger than average legs into account.  Being a cyclist, my upper body is good but less than impressive.  My legs, on the other hand, are things of beauty.  They’re perfect.  They have to be to get through all of the miles I put on them.  If I had to guess, I’ve got about ten pounds in my legs that most normal people wouldn’t have.

My BMI, being what it is (and those remarks that accompanied my calculations are wonderful), is only a small part of the puzzle when it comes to managing one’s weight.  First and foremost, I don’t go all next level and try to micromanage my weight.  I’ve never had to.  When I figured out, fourteen or fifteen years ago, that I was overweight (I was about nine pounds overweight, going by the BMI calculator), I didn’t panic.  To quote another blogger, I learned to move more and eat less.  It was really that simple.  The weight came off and I was happy again.

When I started cycling though, my weight plummeted.  I was all the way down to 150 and I was too skinny.  I had a tough time seeing it at the time, but I did need some meat on my bones.  Now I try to maintain something between 170 and 175, though I have spent some time this year between 180 and 183.  Still within the margin of error, but pushing maximum density.

There exists one low-tech tool that is of much greater value to me than a BMI calculator:

My belt.  On my black belt, if it doesn’t fit, I’m fat.  If I’m using the last buckle hole, I need to watch my weight.  If I’m using the second to the last, I’m perfect and if I’m one smaller than that, my wife was complaining that I’m too skinny about two weeks prior.

With my macro view of my weight, everything becomes simple…

If I’m on that last belt loop, eat less, move more.  If I’m on the second, keep doing what I’m doing.  If I’m on the third, eat more*.

*Moving less simply isn’t an option – there’s just too much fun out there to have on a bike.


The Joy that is Recovery from Addiction

I don’t remember much of my life before recovery.  I was 22 years-old back then, didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.  It doesn’t help that I’ve never remembered my entire 21st year on the planet.  It was one big blackout.  I literally remember nothing after my 21st birthday until after I turned 22 and the People of the State of Michigan decided I should probably sober up.

I know what was out there for me if I’d have stuck to drinking.  The likelihood that I’d even be on the right side of the grass, pumping air at 46 is pretty slim.  I’ve seen too many good people end up in prison, or worse, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t kick getting drunk or high.

All too often, when it comes to recovery, I see things that just break my heart.  The notion that a massage or some good old-fashioned self-knowledge will “cure” a person is deceptive at best, deadly at worst, but usually just plain stupid.

Now maybe I was a special kind of messed up.  Perhaps I was a real, real hardcore drunk?

I needed my entire life overhauled.  I needed to learn how to be honest with myself and others – and that’s more than your “That depends on your definition of the word ‘is'” political honesty too.  I mean rigorously frickin’ honest.  It means, “I know what will happen if I allow alcohol or drugs into my system…  Chaos.” honesty.

I have to do the best I can to be the best person I can or I’ll be lost or dead.  There are no second chances, no more bites at the apple, no more ways I can game the system.  I have to be done trying to figure everything out.  I have to be done trying to cheat, lie and steal my way through life.

I have to maintain a fit lifestyle.  I’m a miserable SOB when I’m polishing the couch with my butt.  Hell, I even hate me like that.

I also had to give up all delusions that I can ever drink alcohol or consume mood or mind-altering drugs successfully.  I’ve tried every combination out there, I just can’t make it work.

Finally, I had to start living a life based on spirituality.  Not, “go to confession and give me ten Hail Mary’s” spiritual.  “Do unto your brothers as you would have me do unto you” spirituality.

I read a post yesterday, written by a doctor, that proposed the key to fixing addiction is fixing poverty and homelessness.  That sounds awesome but it’s not even close.  It’s so wrong, I actually chuckled.  Here I was, a silver spoon in my butt 22 year-old kid, never had a want for anything and fixing poverty and homelessness is going to straighten me up?  How naïve!  That might make a great government grant request but the notion is silly on its face.

Poverty and homelessness are symptoms of alcoholism.  As is dishonesty, as is lethargy, as is a complete moral decay of a person.  Fixing the symptoms only keeps one dependent on the medication.

For me to have a fighting chance, I had to fix the alcoholic, and that takes a little more than a nice bike, a massage, and a place to hang my hat.

As they like to say, if you sober up a horse thief, you’ve still gotta deal with the horse thief.  

Cycling Happiness: Know Thy Limits, Push Thy Limits, Eat Well, Help Others and Be Merry

This very well can be my best cycling season yet.  I’ve got a pile of miles in.  I’m fit. I’m happy.  I’m enjoying cycling with my wife.  We’ve been on a number of cycling trips this year and they’ve been progressively more enjoyable.  It hasn’t been all good times and noodle salad though it has been good… and I’ve eaten more than a few pounds of noodle salad.

First, I told a friend last night at the club ride that cycling is the only thing I know of that makes me feel like a kid again.  That’s only partially true though, because as I kid I had a cheap Murray 15 sp. mountain bike that I beat to death.  Today, not only do I have a couple of high-end road bikes, I’ve got a decent mountain bike as well.  I’m no longer relegated to riding to friends’ houses and around the neighborhood, I take my bikes camping, to explore roads hundreds of miles away with the only care of the day being busting out some miles with my wife and friends.  I get to feel like a kid without the constraints of being a kid.

If I’ve learned anything about cycling, with all of the attempts at riding with the A guys, with getting dropped every week from the group to finally forming our B group, and all of the awesome adventure vacations I’ve been on, it’s this:

  • I have my limits and the closer I get to them, the less fun I have during the ride.  After the ride, now that’s a different story.  There’s always a certain tough guy euphoria after completing a tough ride that I don’t get if I’m not right at the edge.  That said, all things being equal, I enjoy the below threshold rides a little more than what is described as “suffer-fests”.
  • I still have to push those limits because it’s been fairly stated, if you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower.
  • “Eat well” does not mean eating like a vegan monk.  I still eat a lot of the fun stuff that cycling makes possible, obviously moderation and good choices are imperative.
  • Cycling, especially club cycling, is all about helping others.  By getting out of myself I enjoy life so much more than if it’s spent inside the gray matter between my ears.
  • Some cyclists get their joy from crushing each other on a ride.  They’re not wrong, it’s just what makes them happy.  I don’t have to understand it – and I certainly don’t have to take part in it if it doesn’t do the same for me (and it doesn’t).  Others get their joy from a slow spin… there’s nothing wrong with that either.  Then there are those of us who like fast, without the race.  There are local cycling clubs that represent all types of cyclists.  The best part is, fit people aren’t a glum lot.  Chances are you’ll be able to find people inside a group that you’ll gel with.  Cycling solo has its merits, but nothing beats a nice weekend ride with a bunch of friends.

The important thing to remember is that nobody ever got fit sitting on the couch.  Get out there and ride.



How Much will You Pay to Ride a Century? What a Supported Ride SHOULD Cost

As some of you know, I am quite involved in my local bicycle club.  I’m the President.  We put on a local ride every year that draws between 400 and 800 cyclists (this year was just shy of 500).

Before I tell you how much the ride cost, let me start with this:

There are five routes ranging from 25 to 100 miles.  The roads are marked for each route, by volunteers.  Volunteers sweep the dangerous, gravel laden intersections (I am one of the volunteers for that).  Volunteers and club members staff the four rest stops.  We had, this year:  Bananas, homemade cookies, peaches, watermelon, grapes, pickles and peanut butter and jelly sammiches.  We had water and Gatorade as well.  This is at each of the rest stops.  When we were finished we were treated to Coney dogs, watermelon, a bag of chips and just about any kind of soda you could want.  Routes were SAG supported by volunteers and several motorcyclists as well.

Custom cycling caps commemorating the ride were $20 and ride tee-shirts were $16 – or you could get one of each for $30.  These were not included in the price of registering.

Proceeds went to our not for profit cycling club and will be used to fund cycling clinics and programs that have yet to be fully planned (we didn’t make much, but we did make enough to make a difference).

The only down-side is that no roads were closed or monitored by police during the ride.

Pre-registration was $15
Late and Day Of registration was $20.

Watch what you pay and what is stocked at the rides you do.  Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and not funding some knucklehead’s endless summer.  These things aren’t that expensive to put on.

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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