Fit Recovery

CAUTION:

This blog is written in plain, fly-over country English. The Author reserves the right to forego nonsensical, feel-good gibberish.

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One Helluva Ride: Out of the Frying Pan.

The weather forecast was weird.  It was supposed to be hot, as is normal for this ride (I’ve never done it with a finishing temp below the upper 80’s – call it 28 C), but remain cloudy for much of the later miles with rain rolling in after 3pm – plenty of time for us to get done and get gone.

For those who follow me on Strava, I track certain rides on my phone because I’ve yet to pick up a Garmin so time gets added to my rides when I’m walking at a rest stop – my app picked up a 19.7 average while my computer showed two tenths more miles (I almost forgot to start the app) and a moving time of 4:55:45, a 20.3-mph average.  Let’s face it, six tenths isn’t much, but 20.3 for 100 miles is a lot sexier than 19.7 – especially when you figure we only had five guys.

Anyway, getting back to what’s important, it shouldn’t be surprising with a name like One Helluva Ride that rolls through Hell, Michigan, we haven’t had much luck in completing the ride.  We’d cut it short the last three or four years – and that’s not a bad thing.  By the time we get to lunch, it’s so miserably hot that when one guy suggests cutting it short, the rest crumble in seconds.

Death by 3% Hills

Not literally dead, like “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, one of the dumbest sentences I’ve ever heard spoken in a commercial.  No, it literally wasn’t.  You’d be dead, sweetheart – and none of our group died because of little, tiny 3% hills.  By the time mile 98 flashed on the computer, though, we’d seen enough.  The point is, there were a lot of little, baby hills and rough pavement that it was torturous on the feet.  If by torturous you mean awesomely painful, yet not really torture, because it’s a bike ride, dude.  In the scheme of things, that’s my kind of torture.

The Winston Wildcard

We had my friend, Winston with us.  He’s about eight inches shorter than me and you would have to sit a 40 lb bag of salt on his lap for him to get an idea of what it’s like to be me, climbing a hill.  He pulled, averaging north of 21 mph, for the first fourteen miles.  When Winston’s riding, it’s gonna be fast.  The dude is freaking strong – and a great guy to be around.  With just five miles to go, I was hurting.  Bad.  I was struggling to stay on at the back and I just wanted to get off my bike.  I was “stick a fork in me” done, so I told my friends I was slipping off the back, that I’d see them soon enough.  Here comes Winston back after me, and he says, “I’m not going to leave you back here with only a few miles to go, now come on… Let’s get it done.”  He pulled me back to Chuck and Mike and the four of us cruised it in – if you can call north of 20-mph “cruising”.

So with that, we set our bikes on the nearby rack and headed over to the watermelon booth, where they served the most delectable watermelon wedges I’ve ever eaten.  Every year, the watermelon at the end is one of the most talked about parts of the ride.  They chill it to a perfect 40-ish degrees, slice it up, and line it up on the table for famished riders to eat.  I had four wedges and almost filled up on watermelon.  Those of you who eat it, know how much you have to eat to “fill up” on watermelon.  It’s a lot, but it’s so good!

There are those scenic rides, like the Northwest Tour, where you want to slow the pace down to look around and take in the beauty of seeing the land from a saddle.  OHOAR isn’t one of those.  There isn’t a lot to look at (though it’s vastly better than the Tee-shirt Ride – woof!).  One Helluva Ride is one of those, “put your head down and let’s hammer this out” rides where you want to see how fast you can get around the 100 mile course, while exploring just how close to heat stroke you can get while doing it.

With today left to run up my weekly mileage total, I’m sitting on 225 miles… Just 14 days into the month, I’m sitting on 583 (that should be close to 640 after today, midway through the month) and, for the year, I’ve already surpassed my total mileage for all of 2012 with 5,388.  Truthfully, this has been one helluva year.  I can say that I’ve had happier moments, obviously, but overall, this has been one great year.  I’m having more fun than politicians would normally allow.  It just isn’t fair for one guy to enjoy life so much, to horde all of that happy.  They’d have to knock me down a few pegs and share some of my happiness with others, you know, to spread the happy.

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Why Exercise is So Important to Recovery in One Simple Concept… and some Experience, Strength, and Hope

I was at a meeting last night and we were talking about the reading from the Daily Reflections that talks about humility, and the loose definition therein as it relates to recovery and the most unlikely old-timer dropped the simplest concept I’ve ever heard as it pertains to recovery. I’ve been trying to boil this down to the simplest common denominator for going on seven years (maybe eight?), and here we are at a small intimate meeting and this fella just nails it.

We have this little catch about expressing what we hear in meetings as it pertains to other members who shall remain anonymous so, other than this simple concept, I’m going to keep this very general. This old-timer was talking about how he likes to go for a walk when life is coming at him fast, because his walk gives him time to disconnect from what’s troubling him and sets him up to work the program at his troubles – which is exactly what we do – we work the program at life’s problems so we don’t have to live in that morass that once had us drunk in a ditch. The point is, I’ll just get right after it:

Exercise puts us in the right frame of mind to work on recovery.

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This, in one simple sentence, gets right at why exercise is so important to recovery for so many – it clears out the cobwebs so we can look at what life gives us in a clearer perspective.

From there, it’s simply an inventory, sharing, amends, and maintenance and we’re working on a solution. Once we’ve made it through, we share our experience, strength and hope that it may help others in their recovery.

And that, in one simple sentence, is why Fit Recovery was born in December of 2011. To pass it on. Pretty neat.

Thou Shalt Match One’s Kit to One’s Bike: I have done something a bit rash that may put me in the doghouse…

Okay, it’s well documented that I’ve got a penchant for matching my kit to my bike(s).  I had my Trek 5200 painted to match my Venge, and my wife bought my mountain bike to match the Venge…

Okay?  Well established, I like matching the kit to the bike.  Well, Mrs. Bgddy was recently bitten by the same bug, to the extent that others in the cycling club have noticed and commented on how well put-together she looks nowadays.

So, those damned ads that appear on websites that I visit are so well-tailored to me, I get caught now and again.  The other night I noticed a sale on Kask helmets over at Competitive Cyclist, so I checked it out.  I bought two.

I couldn’t help it…  Not only will my wife and I match our respective bikes, we’ll match each other!  Too cool, man.  That’s how it’s done.

Fighting Improper Etiquette on Club Rides; the Need for Speed meets Selfish, Ignorant, or Both.

As a general rule, club rides can be a little difficult to figure out. The faster the group, the more aloof and less welcoming the cyclists will be. This is more about self-preservation than having anything to do with you personally. Noobs are scary to a well-established group because, frankly, the general public has no idea how to act in a group travelling 40 feet per second down the road with no seatbelts – and there isn’t a lot of room for error. Here are some things that will help you fit in and endear you to those in your group. Good luck, this is gonna get bumpy. I’m not going to spare the brutal honesty on this one:

  • Don’t ride a time trial or triathlon bike in the aerobars on a club ride. Fast club rides are for road bikes. If you think you’re good enough to ride in those stupid aerobars in a group, you’re not only dangerous, you’re ignorant. You’re too far from the brakes. You’ll notice the good riders who have aerobars only use them when they’re on the front or well off the back of the group. The good riders never use them in the pack. If you do, or think you’re good enough to use them in the group, remember the preceding sentence; the good riders never use them in the pack.
  • There’s no such thing as a slow-roll regroup. I allowed myself to get caught up in one of these the other day and I had an apology to make for it. I have a fair defense for my actions but in the end, one of my friends got caught up and it wasn’t cool. If there’s a regroup spot picked out, stop and regroup.
  • It is not the job of the group to get you around the course, grasshopper. It is your job to contribute to the group. This concept is commonly messed up, royally, hence the first sentence. If you are of the selfish nature, please save everyone the consternation of disliking you and ride alone.
  • Bring your good legs to the big dance. Look, don’t show up to the ride complaining that your legs hurt. First, nobody cares. Second, see First. For instance, we ride on a Tuesday, so Monday should be a very easy recovery ride. If you absolutely lack the ability to stay off the gas when you ride, take the previous day off. I can relate to this inability to stay out of the carburetor – I was once afflicted myself. I learned, though. Bring the good legs to the good ride.
  • A club ride is not a race… unless it is a race. Check to find out which you’ll be riding in before the ride. If it’s not a race, don’t use race tactics. Here are some things you need to know:
    • First, there are no bonus points for hiding in the back the whole ride, only to charge for the City Limits sign, winning the sprint. Not only are there no points for this, you actually have points taken away by all of those who had to pull your @$$ around the course.
    • Second, pull through, even if it’s a short turn up front. You can handle 30 seconds or so. Pull through.
    • Don’t leave gaps for others to fill unless you’re at the very back of the pack. They’re hurting too, even if they don’t look it, and filling your gaps isn’t their job. It’s yours. It’s an @$$hole move to open a gap, three bikes back in a ten-deep pace line, for someone who just came off the front.
  • Now, if you can’t pull through, and there are acceptable situations, there are a few etiquette items to consider:
    • Stay at the back if you can’t pull through.
    • Do NOT pull through to second or third bike only to tap out and leave a gap for someone else to make up because you’re too selfish to understand that what you’re really doing is screwing the people behind you.
    • If you can’t pull through and take a turn at the front but won’t stay at the back, causing shakeups in the group, you are a complete twatwaffle. If you make a go for the sprint(s), you’re a double-super-duper twatwaffle. You will be looked down upon until such a time as you’ve taken a minimum of a fifteen mile turn at the front… at the group’s normal pace – in other words, Peter Sagan wannabe, you’ll be looked down upon forever because you can’t pull through in the first place, let alone sit up there for fifteen miles.
    • If you’re cooked, then speed up and point to the rear wheel in front of you so the person in your draft knows to take the other wheel… then tap out.
  • Here’s a good tip if you find you’ve worked up to the middle of the group but can’t pull through: wait until you get to an intersection with a stop sign or a sharp turn and make your way to the white or yellow line (depending on what side of the road you’re on and whether or not you’re in a double pace-line). Let the group go by and latch on at the back. You don’t create a gap and you’re at the back where you want to be. It happens, from time to time, you know? You mean to stay at the back but you end up creeping up a few places due to… well, that’s just how things shake out sometimes.
  • DO NOT DOUBLE TAP. When the cyclist in front of you is done taking their pull and taps (or arm-flick’s) out, do not, under any circumstances, tap out at the same time and leave a gap at the front. It’s just not cool. You can get away with that shit in the D group when they’re only going 15-mph. When you’re going 27 you crush the person that has to make up for you. Better to take a short turn and tap out properly.
  • Don’t play hide-and-go-draft. Hold a straight line so others can get a predictable draft behind you. You’re not racing, remember? The idea is to help the group get down the road and if the person behind you can’t get a good draft off of you, you’re basically useless up there. Don’t be useless.
  • Okay, here’s the last one I’ve got… now come in real close because this one is pretty important… DON’T RIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TWO ROWS OF A DOUBLE F’IN’ PACE LINE UNLESS YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY THE LAST BIKE. We’ve got a couple of guys who like to do this in the middle of the pack… I know mild-mannered people who want to push their friends off their bike for doing this. To the cyclist who thinks this is no big deal: Nobody likes riding with you. They put up with you. When someone like me pulls along side you and crowds you over to the side of the road so you’ve only got four inches of asphalt to ride on… We’re doing that on purpose to prove a point. Take the hint and knock that $#!+ off.

The point is, friends, we need to look out for our fellow cyclists and remember that which is most important when the bikes go in the truck or on the rack: We’re out there riding bikes to have fun. We need to help the others in the group so we can all keep the rubber side down and have an enjoyable time. Think about everyone else first, and remember… In a club ride, sometimes you’re the sprinter, sometimes you’re the lead out. Whichever you happen to be on a given week, do the job right.

UPDATE: The Temocyclist adds:

And don’t overlap the wheel in front!

If the rider in front moves across to avoid something at 27mph and you touch wheels, you’re going down hard, taking everyone behind you down too. That will not make you and friends

Tuesday Night Club Ride; Wheel Sucking Perspective Edition

It was an odd night for wind. For what is usually the hardest part of the ride, we were going to have a nice tailwind.

The warm-up was an easy 17.7-mph, over seven miles and some change. The temp, in the mid-80’s, was perfect. We had a little wind, but it wasn’t all that bad. The northeast direction of the wind, now that presents a problem or two. Chief among them is the last fifteen miles of the ride being into the wind. That’s no bueno.

We rolled shortly after the A Group left and got right after it. I was second bike with another horse of a guy so we jammed the pace right out of the gate. We were up to 23-mph just after we we hit the first turn… into the wind. We went for a mile and dropped back, maybe fifteen bikes to rejoin the line.

The first third of the ride was fantastic, a big group working together. The second third, not so much…  Gaps, the group breaking apart, only to come back together, guys fighting to be the last bike, etc.  I struggled and spent a ton of time up front, but coming into the intermediate sprint at 20 miles one of the stronger guys came up from the back and urged me to get on his wheel as he went by.  I did and took the City Limits sign with a comfortable gap and 33 mph.  I recovered while everyone caught back up and it was more of the same as we headed north, into the wind.

I was up front a lot because you never know who’s going to drop and when – besides, the draft is actually better up front where everyone is working together than in the back where everyone is jockeying for the worst position.  Still, I can’t help but get a little edgy as I’m wearing down and we’ve got guys screwing the people in the group who are willing to work so they can attempt to stay in the back.

Coming into the final sprint, I was third bike behind two tandems and I thought I was positioned perfectly – right up until that second tandem pulled off a quarter-mile early – which meant I was going to be the lead out.  I hammered the pedals, jumping from a solid 24-mph to 28… I gave it everything I had and arm-flicked out when I was done.  I watched the others ride by, and one of the guys who didn’t take a pull the whole 30 miles come shooting by to take the sprint to the City Limits sign – and it wasn’t who we’d expect, either.  That guy has at least been pulling through the last several weeks.  Nope.

My gut reaction was to cry foul.  What he did was foul – people who suck wheel all ride long, only to pour it on at the sprint in a club ride (in other words, not a freaking race) are lower than a snake’s ass.  It just is what it is*.

I’d gone to the café and eaten, made it home and unpacked and I was still hot about the whole thing.  Then, in the shower, I realized what I’d been doing to myself.  If you’ve read my last couple of recovery posts, I’ve been writing about only worrying about myself, and what I’m doing – and keeping my side of the street clean.

Ooh, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I let the water rinse the soap off.  I did right during the ride.  I worked hard and did my part.  That’s the end of it for me.  If I don’t like the wheel sucking that’s been going on of late, I can always quit riding with the group on Tuesday – or go out on my own after the group leaves…. but let’s be realistic, that ain’t gonna happen.  So that leaves me two options; keep my mouth shut, or nicely point out that the group works better when we all work together.

I’m going to have to sit on it a while because it’s going to be the latter option and I would have a hard time with the “nicely” part.  I’ll have to work on that.

And you thought recovery was just about not using drugs or alcohol anymore.

* I should add, there are certain people who have earned the right to hang in the back and suck some wheel.  They’ve been contributors for decades and they’re slowing a little but they can still hang with the big group if they hide a little bit.  These people get a pass.  Those who don’t are the younger, stronger bucks.  The older guys aren’t entirely exempt either – one in particular last night, left a gap in the right lane in a double pace-line because he “didn’t want to be up front when the hills started” then lamented the fact that others from the left lane didn’t eat wind to fill in the hole he created…

Folks, don’t be that guy.  Ever.  I did let him have the truth, too.

 

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Understanding Chainrings – the Road Bike’s Front Gears, How and Why.

In cycling, understanding, really getting into, the front gears, or chainrings, is a bit more complex than simply “buy a bike and whatever happens to be on it, go”. In fact, the front gears are just as important as the back gears and can be tailored to match your riding conditions or even your riding style. In this post I’ll cover the triple, the pro double, the pro compact and the compact set-up.

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The triple was once common because it was magical when things got uppity. It’s also the most finicky of the cranksets available on a bike – getting one dialed in properly can be a lesson in patience. For the triple, you’ve got the big ring (52 or 53 teeth), the middle ring (39 or 42 teeth) and the baby ring (24 to 30 teeth). The pro double, once the staple of pro rigs, consisted of a 52 or 53 tooth big ring and a 39 or 42 tooth small ring. The pro compact, new as of 2012 or 2013, is 52/36. The compact crank is 50/34.

Now, back in the day of 5, 6 and 7 speed cassettes, getting a full range for going fast on flat ground and climbing steep hills could be a little tricky – thus the use of the triple crankset. The triple gave you all of the gears of a standard pro double (52/42 or 53/39) plus the baby ring (24 to 30 tooth) for climbing. Going up an 18% hill in a 42/23 (front to back) combination was ugly. With the triple, all of a sudden hills that would baffle many enthusiasts became accessible.

With the advent of the ten, eleven, and now twelve speed transmissions, the third chainring is becoming obsolete because there are so many bigger gears available on the cassette, the triple isn’t necessary anymore.

That said, where triples will always be invaluable is on a tandem.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to the fun part! The coolest thing about chainring combos is tailoring them to your needs. First, if you need to know your recommended crank length, go here and input the pertinent info… Next, if you’re like everyone else, you’ll just live with what you’ve got, so let’s move on.

Let’s say you’ve got reason to install a new crank on your bike, or you’re replacing worn chainrings. Most will just go ahead and get the exact replacements for what they’ve already got on the bike, but let’s think this through a minute. What is your riding style? How about top speed? What’s your normal terrain, flat as a pancake or hilly? How about your average pace? North of 18-mph or south? All of that info will factor into your chainring selection.

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For instance, if your average pace is 16-mph, the last thing you’ll want is a 52/36 or 53/39 as you’ll spend most of your ride in the little ring – 52/25 or 26 (the second to the last gear on your cassette is only good for 15 or 16 mph… or the last gear on your cassette that you can use with the big ring because you don’t cross chain the drivetrain). No, a 50/34 would be a much better fit as you’ll have three more gears to play with when you’re riding in the big ring. With a top-end of around 37-mph (50/11), you’ll have more than enough gear to keep up on the downhill sections.

Say you’re a stronger cyclist, able to hang with the 20-mph + crowd. You’re an enthusiast, certainly, but you’re more recreational than a racer and you like to get into some hills now and again (this describes me, by the way). Well, in that case the 52/36 was made specifically for you. You get all of the top-end speed out of the Big Dog, but you get a decent baby ring for when things take a turn for the up. I’ve had my Venge (pictured above with the aluminum colored chainrings) on inclines above 20% and I was able to crank out more than a few feet with the pro compact crank.

Aspirations on being a racer? 53/39 all the way. Enjoy horsing that big bitch up an 18%’er though. Serious racer? 52/42. Peter Sagan? 55/42. What a beast! I’d be willing to bet he goes with the 52/36 on his Tarmac, though (his climbing bike… the 55/42 is for the flatter stages… nope – 53/39… what a feakin’ animal!).

Anyway, you get the idea. Why settle for what comes on the bike when, with a little thought, you can have a drivetrain that fits your needs?

In my case, I have a 52/36 combo on my Specialized, because A) that’s what I wanted because you can’t have a race bike with a compact crank on it at my age, B) it suits my riding style and pace perfectly, and C) well, it came on the bike. The Trek was a different story entirely. I put some serious thought into what I wanted on that bike. First, it’s my rain bike, but more important, that’s the bike I take out on tours because it’s so easy to work on if I have a problem – and now with the new Ultegra bottom bracket and Shimano RS500 crank, it’s better than anything I’ve ever worked on. It’s actually simple.

I thought about what I was going to need that bike for. I encounter a lot of hills when I travel, so score one for the 50/34. I like to climb hills when I travel, so that’s two. The tours I do, specifically Northwest and DALMAC, both have a fair bit of climbing… score three. They also don’t have a lot of top-speed descending, and the guys I ride with really don’t push max-speed anyway, so I won’t have a problem keeping up. In other words, the compact makes a lot of sense on the bike, all things considered. After a couple of weeks on it, I couldn’t be happier with the decision.

The point is, don’t settle. Make your bike yours, you’ll appreciate it more. That’s the way it works for me.

This is a companion piece to this post.

Not Dead, and this just might be what Heaven is Like. Happiness this Good isn’t Chance. It’s Choice.

When I was just twenty-one years-old, I was sat in a doctor’s office getting some crazy news. He informed me that, according to my liver enzyme readings I had the liver of a sixty year-old chronic alcoholic and that I would be dead inside a eight years without a radical lifestyle change. It was either quit drinking or…

That wasn’t my “bottom”. I drank for another year before finally seeing the light. Once I did see it, though, I didn’t look back.  I made a deal with God in the middle of DT’s (withdrawal tremors – it isn’t pretty) – and rather unusual, where I would normally start with God’s end of the bargain, I started with my end.  I prayed, “God, I know I’m meant for more than this (in other words, “I know I’ve been a loser in Your eyes for quite a while now”).  I’ll give staying sober everything I’ve got, if You’ll just help me”.  With that, my compulsion to drink was lifted and I set about fixing the flaws in my character that led me to drink.

That last point is fairly important for we recovering folk.  Too many times, people make the mistake of believing it’s just about not drinking or doing drugs, and that’s why those people fail to remain in recovery so frequently.  The key is fixing why we chose to pick up in the first place.

I set about cleaning the wreckage of my past, then fixing the why.  Over two and a half decades I’ve been through a lot.  Some highs and some lows, but that rollercoaster doesn’t look as crazy as it used to.  The peaks and valleys aren’t as pronounced – in cycling terms, my life doesn’t equate to mountain climbs and descents anymore.  It’s more like gentle rollers where the momentum from the last downhill helps propel me up the next little climb.  There’s no coasting in this way of living, of course.  If I coast over the top of one hill, I won’t have the momentum needed to crest the next.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to choosing this path; the manic highs aren’t as high as they once were.  Those highs are sacrificed to raise the lows.  What this means in recovery’s terms is that I put myself in fewer tempting situations.  I loved to drink when I was on those blazing high’s in life – and I drank so I wouldn’t have to feel during those crushing lows.  Eliminate both, and I can work on the stuff in the middle.

This is the choice.  No more peaks and valleys, just nice rollers, and to get there all I had to do was “the next right thing in any situation”.  Not the next right thing for me, or to further my career, or to make my sobriety better…  The next right thing – and that often isn’t the best thing from my own selfish, personal perspective.  And I have to concentrate on my part in everything for this to work.

If I look at where you’re wrong, if I look at where society has wronged me, if I concentrate on politicians or any other distraction, I miss that which is most important:  My part.

And now we get down to the real nuts and bolts.  I am selfish and self-centered.  If I concentrate on anything other than my part in life, I will be miserable because I can’t do anything about other people, places or things.  This is why activists are always so angry, they’re raging against the machine instead of worrying about their own pathetic selves.  They have to fight something…. anything.  And so they do.

No, I have to do better than that, for the sake of my happiness, because a happy me is better for this world than an angry, manic, depressive, drunk me.

In the end, ironically, it is all about me – just not in the way I want.  It’s about a humble, flawed me, just trying to get better and do right.  When I concentrate on that, life feels like Heaven, almost every day I wake up, and that’s as good as it gets.

DALMAC - 2016 The Wall

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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