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Time… Off? And A Short 2012 Recap…

Not only have I taken the last week off work (relatively speaking), with the house remodel ongoing, I’ve actually taken several days off of exercise altogether to focus on getting as much of the house done as possible over the break. I can’t tell you how odd it’s felt – the first few days were great but I’ve since started to feel off, like it’s… missing.

Bowling last night was hilarious – I’ve been so used to bowling after running (either day of or day before) that I had a hard time adjusting…  I ended up throwing the ball so hard I straightened out half of my hook.  I barely broke 100 in first game before I figured out what the heck was going on in the 9th and 10th frame (I capped that dismal showing with a 183 and a 181).

I’m getting back into spinning today and running over the weekend – no sense in waiting for the new year.

As a recap for 2012, I rode farther and faster than I thought possible with a day job.  I ran less, but faster than I ever have before.  For the first time my wife and I took our bikes on vacation with us and we ended up riding every day in the mountains of North Carolina and northern Georgia.  I went on a handful of centuries, a 100k, and a 200k – double, triple and quadruple my longest rides from the year before.  And I finally lost those last pain in the butt 5 pounds.  More importantly than the speed and distance;  I had more fun that a guy should be allowed to have with his clothes on – and that is the important part for me…  I finally found in cycling the one thing that eluded me since I stopped rollerblading (for lack of a local place to skate) 18 years ago – fun.  For the longest time I ran to stay thin, I started riding because I wanted to do a triathlon but I ended up having more fun riding than I ever did rollerblading.

In the end, and more important still, I made a lot of new friends – some I already knew but most others were from riding with the Tuesday night crew.  While much of 2012 was work in other areas of my life, fitness (and by extension, blogging) was anything but work.  It was a great year – and 2013 looks to be even better…  Time will tell.

Dreams Of Drinking

Fair warning, the language in this post is raw.

You’re sitting in a bar that you’ve never seen before, surrounded by friends, all smiles and good times – the only thing missing is the noodle salad. You order a beer and savor every last drop that passes your lips, then you order another, and another – not a care in the world… You’re laughing with friends, having the time of your life!

Then you wake up in a cold sweat. God dammit! Fuck, did I get drunk last night?! Christ almighty, save me… I can taste it. I went out last night – I can feel the hangover. I just pissed away my sobriety! All of that work! Son of a BITCH!

Tears start welling up in your eyes… What the fuck was I thinking? I’m toast. Mrs. Bgddy is sure to leave with the kids. What am I going to do? I can’t breathe without my girls…

Then the haze starts to clear – it was just a dream. It’s around 4 am, Sunday and this was me at around 3:10. Folks, I wish I could truly put to words how real these dreams feel – you can literally taste them, no shit. The biggest trouble sober people have with the drunk dream is that they don’t talk about them, I’m not one of those people…

One common misunderstanding about the drunk dream is that we sober folk are doing something wrong and that’s why we’re cursed with these dreams. I can tell you, I had to think hard to remember that I was indeed home playing euchre with my in-laws last night, not out at my Uncle Lou’s bar (in real life he’s a dentist) pissing my life away for a drink. Worse yet, I didn’t get hammered, I just had two and left. I drank with… Control. [Alcoholics of my nature completely lack control – when I picked up the first beer, there was no predicting how much I would drink or what would result from my being drunk. I have accepted that this is simply how I am, that there is no changing this (I’ve tried-repeatedly) – to have a dream in which there was control, for a fellow like me, is a fate as bad as death. Left unchallenged, it could plant the seed – and start it festering – that maybe I can drink like other people! That thought, that seed, is the very beginning of my death… Quite literally, unless I work over the next few days to dispel that notion from my very core, unless I maintain vigilance over the next several weeks and months against that festering seed taking root in my mind, it will grow and result in my getting drunk, of this I have no doubt, because this is the nature of my disease].

I’ve been sober, consecutively, for 177,331 hours. 7,348 days. 241 months. 20.11 years… and I just had a drinking dream that shook me to my soul. I have been working diligently to maintain my sobriety. I work with others, I do what is asked of me from other sober fellows… More so now than I have in years.

And that’s why I believe I had the dream, because I am working the solution. A dream is nothing more than your brain’s way to take out the trash – and that’s what mine did last night… It just happened to take out a lot all at once.

I now have my wits about me again, my heart has slowed back down and in a half hour that will be 177,332 hours of continuous sobriety…

You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t have something to do with being excited to receive a couple of comments on two posts from another sober fellow the other day – I haven’t taken the time to get on the computer so I can follow his blog yet… Hmmm, food for thought.

In any event, back to the dreams. They are rare. They are miserable and they are intense – and I’ve had one every few years (sometimes once a year or maybe even twice) for the last 20 years… They’ve grown far more infrequent over the years, but they’ve never stopped. and this is a good thing.

I look at it this way: After the dust had settled, after my pulse returned to normal and the sweat and tears dried up, I got to relapse – without taking a drink. I got to feel the pain, horror and anguish first hand – without the consequences…

I caught a glimpse of what life would be if I gave in and drank, and it hurt.

If that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is. Thank you Jesus, for saving a wretch like me. I once was lost, and I’m working real hard to be found…

Keeping A Positive Attitude When Everything Goes Wrong…

One thing that I have been gloriously blessed with since I quit drinking 20 years ago is a good attitude.  Cultivating a positive outlook is easy when things are going well, when everything just seems to “click” into place, but what happens when the wheels fall off?  Not so much.

Before I even get into what to do during the rough times, the first and possibly most important attitude killer is “waiting for the other shoe to drop”.  If you have a propensity to not enjoy the good times because you’re looking for the “bad stuff that’s just around the corner” to show up, you have got some serious work ahead of you because there is no other shoe that’s going to drop.  Until you can grasp that, you can’t even enjoy it when things are going well because you’re always anticipating the bad.  It’s as simple as that.

The only constant in life is change.  Life is like the ocean, it ebbs and flows, the tide rises and eventually it drops.  We must allow it to happen, while not waiting for the drop.  I look at it this way:  One way or another, when bad things happen they’re a shock to the system.  You get your adrenaline going and you push through what you have to.  It’s nothing more and nothing less (and the bigger problems are easier).  I must remember that bad things happen to everyone.  Nobody is immune, the only differences are in depth…  With that accepted, then my problems can be put into proper perspective.

For example, over Thanksgiving weekend we found out that we had a busted drain pipe that runs under our kitchen slab.  A good portion of the back quarter of my house flooded before there was even the slightest sign that anything was wrong.  Immediately on noticing a problem, I had one of my guys come over to the house to help tear the flooring up.  When I saw the scope, I called my insurance company and got everything rolling on that.  I forked over the cash to have the plumbing fixed because it needed to be done immediately and I got the disaster company signed up pending acceptance by the insurance company…  They’re trying to get out on a technicality.  Rather than wait for the legal process to work itself out (and after speaking at length with my attorney about the situation), I got to demolishing the affected area – twice coming down with a 16 hour fever from coming in contact with the nasties that had been draining below my slab.  Once that was done and had a few days to dry out, we sprayed everything down with chemicals to kill any possible mold and let it dry out.  Over the next two weeks we got to putting the house back together…  We’re painting right now.  During all of this (which I did have the money for, but barely), we had Christmas but we had to make a choice to skip getting a tree – we simply couldn’t afford it with everything else.  Now that we’re getting everything back together (floors and trim are next), our washing machine crapped out  and the battery in my truck died yesterday.  If that wasn’t enough, the shoelace on my damned boot even broke in half so I had to shovel the driveway and pick up my new battery with one stinkin’ boot hanging off of my foot – and I had to shovel the driveway because the damned snow blower won’t run without flooding.  Folks, many people would get the impression that things are not going well in my life right now – but I laughed my ass off when I noticed the busted shoelace (the latest WTF moment)…  I will get through this mess and be happier for it on the other side because life ebbs and flows, there are ups and downs.  The only constant in life is change.  I’m on the back side of the down, on the way up.  If that isn’t reason for cheer, I don’t know what is – things are about to balance back out.

Twenty years ago I had a glorious awakening – I had created hell on earth for myself through drinking.  When I quit and rebuilt my life, through God’s grace, I created a great life for my wife and I and now our children.  No matter how bad things get, no matter what I lose or what is taken away, life won’t be that bad – the only possibility for me to sink back to that level is to pick up a drink.  I’ve written about this before, when you’re lifted out of the hell you’ve created – when you’ve been as low as you can possibly get and still have the rest of your life to do better, it puts things in a light that most people don’t get to enjoy.  A washing machine taking a crap is not the end of the world compared to having to climb out of the hole of alcoholism – keeping the big picture in mind is what’s really important.  What if I couldn’t afford to plunk down the cash for a washer (I don’t have credit cards – we live debt free with the exception of the house and one car)?  There are plenty of options out there.  18 months same as cash (that’s less than $35 a month for crying out loud).  The point is that keeping the big picture perspective is required to maintain a decent attitude through the rough patches.

Finally, we’ve all heard the saying that happiness is an inside job.  It’s a quaint and true sound bite but there’s a flip side to that, a negative (or bad) attitude is an inside job too.  While what “happens” to me is an influence, what happens is not who I am and therefore what “happens” to me does not define how I react when “bad” things happen.  Take the shoelace on my boot breaking (or the snow blower, snow, washing machine…take your pick).  That one little thing on its own is no big deal, obviously, but put in context with everything else that’s going on in my life right now, it could have been the straw ten or fifteen years ago.  So how do I laugh in the face of this mess?  I put it in perspective.  I won’t be worrying about any of this stuff in six months – if it doesn’t meet the six month test, I simply know I have to roll up my sleeves and work a little harder for a few weeks.  If it does meet the six month test, then I know I need to roll up my sleeves and devote some time to resolving the issue, whatever it takes.  In short, I’m never in a spot where a little action won’t fix what ails me.

Most important in this is faith – and this gets a little tricky for those who don’t have any.  I truly believe that God won’t give me any more than I can handle.  In other words, if it “happens” to me, I can handle it.  When you walk through life knowing you can handle anything that comes your way, life is easier and the down times aren’t as stressful.

Living this way, of course, takes a lot of practice – but it’s worth it.

Employment Opportunities In The US…

I received a rather racy email from my father-in-law that I found funny and ironic so I figured I’d share the email and my response.  I didn’t hold anything back and this is just a touch more racy than my usual PG-13 so I’m putting everything under the fold, if you will.

The email starts out like this:

This girl could be
 sitting at home drawing unemployment, but instead she’s  established
a business with unlimited potential for expansion.

A creative entremanure [SIC – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?] who has developed a business idea with tremendous profit


Fitness: Pay Attention To Your Body, But Not Too Much

One of my favorite bloggers writes a lot about “listening to the body” for signs that one needs rest or to back off a bit. I’ve been trying to work out for some time how to agree, but with a huge caveat… Because I don’t listen to my body very often – my head has a tendency of butting into the conversation.  I’m more likely to tell my body (usually the legs) to shut the hell up rather than to heed a warning.  Let’s just say it’ll be screaming at me before I start paying attention.

This is my logic…  I’m faster than average when it comes to riding and running, but compared to your average ranked runner or rider I’m slow as all get out… When my body (or my melon) starts whining about wanting to back off, the first thing I think about is how much harder I have to work to get that fast.  I’m in good enough shape but if I face facts, I’ve got a long way to go before I have to listen to any part if me complaining that I’m trying too hard, because if they can go that fast, the only thing between me and that speed is air and opportunity.  Now granted you have to work up to speed just as you would distance.  The point is that I have to separate the difference between the pain associated with pushing myself and an actual injury.

A perfect case in point occurred over the last couple of weeks. I bumped up my running miles way faster than recommended (I doubled my mileage rather than the recommended 10% bump) and ended up with some ridiculously taught hamstrings. This worked down to my feet and I had what felt like plantar fasciitis. Plantar’s requires rest, everyone knows this, but I wasn’t having any of it – I kept my mileage the same but altered my spinning sessions to stretch my hamstrings – I rode in the drops at an active recovery pace (slow speed, high cadence) once or twice a week and I’m right as rain. Had I listened to my body I’d have sat out the last two weeks and probably would have gained six pounds rather than push through the pain.

On the other hand, just the other day my morning heart rate – normally in the low 50’s – was elevated, into the mid-60’s… Now that’s not something I should ignore…because that’s not something I can control or over analyze – it was elevated because I was a little overcooked so I did have to take a couple of days off.

Another fantastic example is when I pulled my plantaris muscle running several months ago.  My body told me to take three days off thinking I’d really hurt myself but when I went to see my doctor, he had me resume cycling and running immediately with only a slight alteration to my cycling stroke (dropping my heels at the bottom of each revolution to stretch the pulled muscle on the injured leg – I dropped both figuring that it would help the other as well).  Three days later I was pain-free walking and cycling – two or three days after that I was running without pain.  To make the situation even more interesting, I read a post a few weeks later in which a blogger that I follow suffered the exact same injury and her doctor recommended two weeks of rest.  Now there is a slim chance that the severity of her pull was greater than mine but I doubt that’s the case – more likely, her doctor recommended the wrong course of recovery from the injury because he didn’t know any better.

The point is, not only am I prone to misinterpretation when it comes to what my body is trying to tell me, there are times when I don’t even know the proper treatment for what my body is telling me in the first place.  I’ve learned from a grateful friend of mine that most times I’ve just gotta push through the little pains – and if they get worse, then maybe I can pay attention and follow that up with a trip to the doctor’s office to make sure I heal it correctly.

The New Year’s Fitness Resolution; A Gift From Fit Recovery

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year to all,

I come bearing a simple gift to the fitness noobs about to embark on their New Year fitness resolution – it happens every year, right after the first.  People hit their local sporting good stores, bike stores, gyms, pools and running stores vowing to get in shape once and for all, certain that this time it will be different.  This time the weight is coming off, this time I’m sticking to it.

I made the promise myself more than once, not only for fitness but, more importantly, in terms of recovery from alcoholism (the latter being much more difficult than the former).  That being said, the recovery community is quite large and we have a rather famous saying that will not apply to the first two months of your endeavor – but it will thereafter.  To begin, if you do this right, you will become a bit obsessive about working out and how you eat.  You’ll maintain regularity, whether it be running, going to the gym or pool, or riding your bike.  If you’re obsessive enough, this phase could last for months or even years.  At some point, your enthusiasm for your new lifestyle will falter.  As far as I can tell, this happens to everyone.  This is the most important time during your battle.  This is when most allow their resolution to fade – you will do one of two things:  Most will stop showing up – not all at once, it will be gradual.  You’ll blame it on a distraction, an event or a change.  You’ll still show up from time to time but the frequency will wane.  This is the time to put your nose to the grindstone, before you lose that fleeting gift of obsession.  If you can make it through this short period, your chances of attaining your goal will increase dramatically.  From there the news gets infinitely better.  If you can make it beyond this, you will come to a point where you rely on your daily exercise – and from there it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to victory.

And that brings us full circle to my gift to you.  Once you pass through the obsession and push through the period in which your enthusiasm wanes, after you come to rely on your workouts, comes the goods:  The famous saying that I live by, both in recovery and fitness, is this;   Fitness is not meant to be worn as a straight jacket.  It’s meant to be worn as a track suit.  Loose and comfortable, not restrictive and binding.  This is the phase in which we find true happiness.  This is where lapses in judgment cease to be a problem – where your diet ceases to be a chore and your workout ceases to be work.  With your diet, you’ll start to see food more as fuel than as comfort – you’ll get the comfort from your exercise.  With your exercise, you’ll find that working out, the act of setting your endorphins free, is far more rewarding than anything you could possibly eat.

It will materialize if you work through those few tough phases of your development.  There’s just one trick:  You absolutely must show up.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and good luck.


Heart Rate, How Low Can You Go?

It’s 4:41 in the morning.  I’m on my second cup of coffee and I’m just about to break into a little bit of work (I’ve got a nice little job to get through) before my wife and kids eat some breakfast, wrap some presents and get ready to head down to my mother’s house for a Christmas party, then we’ll be heading up to take part in a meeting.  Oh, and I’m going to get in a 45 minute – 1 hour spin in there somewhere too.  In other words, it’s going to be a long, busy day and I’m getting myself geared up for it – for the last 40 minutes or so since I woke up.  This is when I remembered to check my morning heart rate…  46. 

I can remember wondering if I’d ever get down into the 60’s two years ago and I’d been running for years.  It’s obviously quite fair to say that I’m simply going to stick with what’s working – I can’t even believe I’m down in the 40’s.

Here’s my trick, the one thing that helps me push through almost anything, the one thing that helps me to push harder, the one thing that helps me to love the notion that “if I can talk, I’m not riding/running fast enough…  Come in close, I have to whisper…

When I want to quit, when I’m tired, when most everyone else would look outside and curl up into a ball and go back to sleep, I call myself a sissy (in much harsher language).  Saturday, when it was cold outside and I really just wanted to stay home…  I had to decide on whether or not I wanted to be a punk today or not.  It may seem harsh, but it is what it is and for me, it works.  Now, this obviously doesn’t have to be ridiculous – I know there are people out there a lot more hardcore than I am – who will ride in the snow (and I quit when it dips below freezing), so I don’t claim to be all that tough.  On the other hand, if you haven’t been running and had your hair freeze or your eyes freeze shut for a split second, you haven’t lived (or you live south of Tennesse-ish).  Running in the nasty weather will make you feel like a hundred dollars and tough as nails.

What gets you through the rough patches?

The Perfect Weather To Test The Resolve

I’m pretty funny about running, particularly about ‘what’ I will run in. For starters, I would rather chew off my arm and beat myself over the head with it than run on a tread mill. Other than the treadmill, I’ll run in almost anything except freezing rain and anything colder than -10 F (-23 C), or more than 3″ of snow if the snow trucks haven’t gone through… Of course if it’s nasty out, I won’t necessarily be happy about running but I’ll do it.

Today was one of those ‘tweeners’. Snow on the ground, roads in rough shape, and cold, but not bad enough to call it. I hemmed and hawed, back and forth between staying in and spinning, or going out to the running club. The hard thing about being in great shape (at least for me) is not skipping on the ‘tweeners’… I didn’t need to run today, heck I’m exactly where I want to be right now, I’ve worked hard, and one day off won’t really hurt anything.

There’s only one problem. I got here by not quitting when the going got a little tough – I pushed through that.

So I suited up, showed up, and rocked out a great seven miles. Starting out was a little worse than you would figure. The roads for the first quarter mile were completely iced over in the subdivision. Other than that it was cold (25 F or -4 C), ‘hurty’ and it took about a mile before I could think about being comfortable. To make things worse, the roads were a little sketchy, lots of ice. With taking it easy for that first quarter I still managed an 8:25 for the first mile and an 8:39 for the second… Then it got nasty, I turned down a dirt road, technically it was more ice on top of dirt – 8:50 for that one and that was not a safe speed. The fourth mile was even worse, 9:01 was the best I could do and that felt like a 7:40 pace. Miles five, six and seven were in the 8:30-8:50 range and I was done… I had thought about running 9 or 10, but those extra two miles are all hilly dirt roads, way too dangerous considering mile 3.

It wasn’t a miserable run but it sure was close for that first mile and a half… But then something beautiful happened – same thing always happens on a cold run. The legs loosened up, the gloves came off (even with the temps below freezing) and finally the hat. I was warmed up and other than having to worry about falling on my ass, I had a great run.

It was a perfect day to see what I was made of.

How Do You Feel? How’s The Heart?

I read a great post on a friend of mine’s site that looked at the importance of checking the morning heart rate to judge adequate recovery after exercise… Now it was no surprise that my heart rate was a little elevated over the last few days, I’ve been exceptionally busy, haven’t slept well and kept my spinning schedule. The surprise was how elevated it was.

From the post: “How to use this data:
Keep an eye on your resting morning heart rate in the two or three days after a hard workout. If it’s significantly elevated from its normal average (7 or more beats per minute), that’s a sign that you’re not fully recovered from the workout. Remember, there is going to be some variability in your daily heart rate regardless of your recovery level, do don’t be concerned if you’re 3 to 4 bpm over your normal average on a given day. In my experience, it takes a reading that’s 7 bpm higher than normal to signify excessive training fatigue.

My average morning heart rate is in the low 50’s, call it 52. Over the last several days I was up around the low to mid 60’s. I took a couple of much needed recovery days off, got some fantastic sleep last night (upwards of seven hours and actually slept in till 5!). This morning, after a cup of coffee and a few moments of trying to figure out what I would write about, feeling like a hundred dollars, my heart rate was 48.

I’ve been keeping track of my heart rate (sparsely) for well over a year now and I’ve never been under 52. So, I have some improvement mixed in with a decent recovery, albeit a slow one. The improvement is quite surprising considering I wound down my season a month ago. If I had to guess, the increase my Saturday run from 5-6 miles to 10-13 plus the spinning intervals once or twice a week on the trainer is responsible.

I’m not going to spend too much time trying to figure it out, it’s my time to celebrate the Christmas season with my favorite movie while the wife (who hates it) and kids sleep…

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

World’s Tallest Dog

I used to have a German Short-haired Pointer/Great Dane mix named Moose.  Fortunately the mixes live a lot longer than the purebreds because even though he wasn’t quite as tall as a full Dane, he was close – and he lived twice as long.  He was my all time favorite dog – I miss him terribly even though I would often have to rent a fork lift to clean up the yard after him.

Here’s the world’s tallest: