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Monthly Archives: November 2012

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My Coldest Ride Ever…

For Thanksgiving we always head to my mother-in-law’s for the long weekend. This may seem like a horror story in the making if you follow the M-I-L stereotype, but I ended up with the exact opposite. Mine is one of the best in recorded history. This is the second year that Mrs. Bgddy and I brought our bikes up so we could ride off the turkey and pie.

We had a nice warm and sunny ride on Thursday and I had to head home for the day on Friday so there was no room for a ride… Then came Saturday. It was gray and windy all day and the misses and I went back and forth for some time trying to talk each other out of it… Then I came up with the old, “we’ll feel better after dinner if we ride”, talking point and that sealed it for the both of us.

We got dressed in out winter wear and headed outside… To find that our winter wear wasn’t quite “winter” enough. We made it all of 2-1/2 miles at a nice leisurely pace before turning around and heading into a gnarly wind. It froze us both to the bone – and I’m not one to complain much about the cold. We had planned on an eight miler but we cut it to five after the horrendous 2-1/2 mile ride back. It was utterly nasty cold. My hands were so cold they hurt, my leg muscles were too cold to work properly and I lost the feeling in my face a quarter mile after the turn around on a nice 25 mph descent.

It was so bad that I failed to find any enjoyment in the ride… And that’s a rarity. This morning we woke up to this:

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It’s all over but the shouting now. Winter is here.

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Strong On The Road Bike, Weak On The Mountain Bike?

The search phrase, “I’m strong on the road bike, weak on the mountain bike” led someone to my blog, and it’s an interesting – and quite understandable conunderum. It also falls under one of my favorite topics of discussion when it comes to conversation and posts… I love to compare one bike with another and contrast them as well because they’re all so interesting and different

First of all, in my humble opinion, technically being strong on one but not the other – strictly in terms of legs – is impossible. There just isn’t enough of a difference between the two, as far as pedaling goes. I’m also not going to bother with aerodynamics and tire difference, both of which are the two obvious factors that make a rider slower on a mountain bike… That’s low hanging fruit and they wouldn’t make a person weak on one but not the other.

There are a few simple reasons why someone (myself included) could be stronger on a road bike over a mountain bike and a few that really require a little bit of thought…and some push ups. Let’s start simple…and assume we all know that a mountain bike is slower than a road bike in the first place. We’d all like to buck the laws of Physics from time to time but in the end, it’s the law dude. Think of it as the US Constitution… Pretending it means something it doesn’t is a lot easier than actually changing it (think Second Amendment).

First is fit – if both bikes are fit exactly to the rider as they technically should then this almost would have no bearing, with two exceptions: There are some who say the mountain bike should be a little smaller than your perfect fit and I happen to agree with this line of thought. I like that my mountain bike is just a touch undersized because it allows me to throw the bike around a bit more in corners and over obstacles (stumps, rocks and roots). Also, and I’m not speaking from experience here, I’ve heard that 29’ers are a little harder to get rolling (but are easier to keep rolling) because of the size and weight of the wheels. Those two could contribute the the thought that someone is perceptibly stronger on a road bike because they will slow you down a bit more.

Also, the setup between the two is different. On a mountain bike, the rider is sitting in a much more upright position which means that you’ll be working the legs a little differently. I have noticed that I can feel a ride in the glutes a lot more after a ride on the mountain bike than the road bike. Assuming the obvious – that one wouldn’t expect to achieve the same speed on a mountain bike as a road bike, workouts on each bike do feel different.

Also, the surface that we’re riding on will have a lot to do with whether or not we feel strong on a mountain bike. This, I think would be the biggest factor. On a road bike, we’re cruising down the road on smooth pavement. If we’re riding on single track trails, there are a whole host of different factors that would tax the body more heavily – namely roots, rocks, mud, sand and ruts. Each requires a different method of handling the mountain bike. Add to that uphill and downhill slopes and the methods double. To keep this short, I’ll use sand for just one example – sand requires the rider to shift his or her weight back, usually to the very back edge of the saddle so the front wheel can be used like a rudder. If your weight is in the standard position or even forward, you’ll put too much weight on the front tire and it will sink in the sand. This works the same for a downhill slope but not a steep climb. If you’ve got your weight too far back and you’re in one of the easier pedaling gears you can easily flip the bike backwards – the granny gears provide that much torque. Now apply different principles to each of the obstacles and you realize – there’s a lot to mountain biking beyond just pedaling as hard as you can.

Finally, rolling over all of those obstacles takes a toll on the arms and upper body. You really have to be strong if you’re going to cruise the trails at a decent clip. I’m not (though I’m by no means a weakling) and I have a tough time over more than 20 miles. To say that arm, upper body and core strength are not important on a road bike wouldn’t be right, but all three are more important on a single track riding a mountain bike.

Taking the above factors into account, then adding in trail difficulty – take Michigan trails for instance which are notorious for quick direction changes and technical difficulty, include a bike that rides 25-30% slower on a flat surface anyway, and you could end up with the impression that you’re not as strong on a mountain bike – when you’re actually in the same place among your peers on both.

To wrap up, I’m above average “strong” in all three instances: Road bike, mountain bike on the road and mountain bike on a trail. I’m still 25-30% slower on a mountain bike on a paved road and 50-60% slower on a trail… But slower doesn’t mean weaker.

I Am Thankful For You…

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my friends and blog friends…

I’m thankful for you Steven, Tracey, Elisa, Pamela, Tanya, Russell, Michael, Christoph, Karen, the All Seasons Cyclist, Sandra, Bob, Laura, Grateful Jim, Pete, Tim, Dennis…

I’m grateful to all of the folks whose blogs I follow – I don’t follow blogs to be popular, I follow them to learn stuff, because you’re interesting and because you write well.

To everyone who’s taken time out of their day to leave a comment or drop by on a regular basis, thank you. You’ve made the experience more enjoyable than I thought possible.

Meatless Mondays in LA? Pass the Steak, Honey

So the Los Angeles city council has asked residents to go meatless on Monday because the council is filled with silly people.  Let’s look at the linked article a little closer:

Los Angeles city leaders have voted [to – sic] endorse “Meatless Mondays.”

The City Council that had earlier declared war on trans fats and fast-food restaurants voted 14-0 on Friday to adopt a resolution urging residents to pledge they won’t eat meat on the first day of the week.

Well how nice – of course adopting a resolution urging someone to do anything amounts to nothing…  They’re “asking nicely” so far.  But then there’s this gem:

The Los Angeles Daily News says it doesn’t make Monday meat consumption illegal and police won’t be checking what you brought to work for lunch.

Well, how quaint – at least they let us know that the cops won’t be checking our lunches yet.  I suppose that’s reason to cheer here in America, eh?  The fact they even had to include that sentence should be alarming.

The resolution is simply designed to make residents healthier and reduce the impact on the environment.

So if the cops aren’t going to be checking lunches (this is written tongue in cheek of course), how is the proposal going to “make” residents do anything?  There’s something fishy going on here.  Here’s how this works – small moves, baby steps if you will.  These kooks propose a “harmless” (and toothless) meatless day.  The idea is to raise support at first.  90% of the ideas get flushed down the drain and are never brought up again, but some catch on and become malignant.  They fester, spread and grow, consuming people’s freedom in the process.  Now I’d have to guess that meatless Mondays won’t ever gain much traction but if these buffoons aren’t fended off early, before long you’ve got some yahoo trying to ban meat in a local government cafeteria – and that’s the tipping point.  After that the politicians (all Democrats in this instance, of course) jump onto the bandwagon and start trying to implement this horseshit in the free market, like Bloomberg did in New York with salt and soda.

Fortunately I live in an excellently quaint small town that simply stays out of the resident’s business. But I do love to imagine what I would do should I live in a city that had a council that tried to work its way into my life in such a manner… First, Monday would become grill night.  I would probably throw a block party at some point, but I would celebrate the city council’s idiocy with a different grilled meat every Monday.  Why grilled? Because nothing makes a block smell better than grilling meat. I run in a small neighborhood in Flint on Thursday nights and nothing makes me want to stop dead in my tracks more than the awesome aroma emanating a grill.

Get your grill on LA.  Then wait and see if the cops show up at your door step.  That should be funny.

Think I’m crazy?  Watch the video…  1 minute and 45 seconds in.  Then skip to 2:50.  Then 4:30…  Baby steps folks, those wackos – if they’re anything – they are patient.

On implementing this hoo-ha in schools:  “Are you hearing loads of complaints from the parents, are the kids themselves enjoying it?  And in pretty much all the cases that we’ve looked at, people are enjoying it.”  If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you…  To decode that second sentence – We only looked at certain cases that agreed with what we were doing and in all of those, people are enjoying it.  Notice he also didn’t say anything in that sentence about complaints?  I guarantee they’d be hearing from me.  This is an age-old tactic, of course.  Hitler used it.  Infect the kids and even turn them on the parents…

From there, Sir Paul goes on to explain a situation where a kid corrects a man for eating bacon on a Monday.  And as he explains it, the man stops as if he’d done something wrong…  Oh how silly this all is.  I wouldn’t be reacting the way Sir Paul suggested in his quaint little story.

The truth is a plant-based diet is good for some people – even ultra athletes can survive on plants alone – but surviving and living are two very different things in my book.  As far as I’m concerned, you can have it…  No thanks.

Run Recovery – No Pain, With All Of The Gain

I happened on something very surprising over the last month or so.  Something that I’d taken for granted.  Something that allows me to recover from a long run in hours rather than days…

I have gotten myself into a crazy little pattern, I’m trail running every other Sunday and it just so happens that on the same Sunday I bowl in the evening (I bowl in a long league – September to April, every other Sunday).  I’ve gone to bowling the last two times sore and tired from the run.  Four weeks ago I just ran, napped and went bowling.  I was miserable.  Two weeks ago I tried something different.  After my run I came home and went out for a ride – just a short little five miler with Mrs. Bgddy and felt immensely better but still had a tough time with stiffness in my hips.

Yesterday, I hit the running recovery jackpot by chance.  I’ve been running more lately so the recovery time has been getting better slowly anyway, but yesterday I increased from six to nine miles and on a mountain bike trail to boot – an increase of 33%  and technically a no-no (they say a 10% increase at a time)… I’m in good enough shape to bend the rules from time to time though.  To coincide with my anniversary, I decided I wanted to do one mile per year, so after my run Mrs. Bgddy and I went for an 11 mile ride on the fat-tire bikes.  The first mile was rough, and the second and third weren’t much better – but by the fourth and fifth I started noticing that I was loosening up quite a bit.  By the eighth and ninth miles I felt like a new man and in the 10th and 11th I was felt better than I did before I went running in the first place – and my bowling scores showed it – I ended up with a first game 182, a second game 206 and then tanked my third game because I was exhausted – I ended with a 154.  Two weeks ago my scores weren’t all that bad but they were absolutely worse and then four weeks ago it was like I’d never thrown a bowling ball.

I’ve been riding after my long runs for two years now – generally I ride 12 miles down to the running club, run and then ride 18 miles back home (I ride the long way home)…  In all that time I never once realized that riding after the run helped my recovery from the run – it hardly makes sense, especially considering that my ride home was farther and usually quite a bit faster than my ride to the running club, but after yesterday I have to say that my experience shows a conclusive result:  I heal up faster if I ride after I run, there’s no doubt about it.

Sobering Up – Young: The Pros and Cons

Fresh out of inpatient addiction treatment with only a few months under my belt and at the ripe old age of 22, I had an old-timer take the time out of his day to tell me, “Son, I spilled more than you ever drank, what are you doing here”?

Most young kids would feel uncomfortable, even rethink their desire to remain sober based on an older fella uttering such raving idiocy. Not me, I knew that I belonged in the sober community.  I had enough and now that I finally managed to get out from under alcohol’s thumb, there was no way I was going back.  “If you hadn’t spilled so much you’d have sobered up a lot sooner, ya old fart”, I retorted, “they call that alcohol abuse where I come from”.  He never spoke cross to me again.  In fact, he actually never spoke to me again come to think of it, but that’s a good thing…  (Honest to God, this actually happened to me – it is not some made up BS story for artistic flourish that so many employ today to make their story that much more awesome).

He had an interesting point though. I sobered up during a boom of young alcoholics who, for one reason or another, were compelled at an early age to put a plug in the jug. This was mainly brought on by the police no longer letting drunk drivers go unscathed.  Call it a crack-down.  In addition, judicial activism played a role as well.  Judges started sentencing habitual drinkers (and now first time offenders) to treatment centers (outpatient and inpatient), AA meetings and probation – if I had to guess, to keep the jail population down.  This has its pluses and minuses as well, but I won’t be delving into that subject for this post, hopefully we can just agree that it happens.  I have no feelings either way on the matter, though it is safe to say that this activism saved my bacon and for that I’m grateful.

The Cons

Getting sober young, as I did, does have its difficulties.  First of all, the sober community is mainly older folks (or it was just before I sobered up). Being 22 in that community, without the proper attitude, is not simple.  As I loosely illustrated in the opening paragraphs, I had the right attitude – I didn’t care who thought what about my being wet behind the ears, I needed for the anguish caused by an insidious disease to stop, and I wasn’t about to wait until some old fart decided I was old enough to quit.  This is one key reason behind why I made it, by the way.  Moving along, one of the greatest things Twelve Step programs offer is fellowship.  People with a common problem sharing their experience, strength and hope in order that they might help another with the affliction recover – but this goes for more than just “meetings”…  I surround myself with sober people.  I run with them and spend most of my free time with them.  If you happen upon a group of older recovering folks, finding people who you want to hang out with can be a scary proposition.  Ask, and ye shall receive (Matthew 7:7) they say.  Ask those old folks where you can meet sober folks your age.  If they’ve been around long enough, they’ll know where to direct you (or a good contact who does) and will be more than happy to let you know which is the good crowd to hang with…  As in life, there are winners and losers in sobriety – start off with the winners.  Some people may complain that it is unfair to label people like this.  There are a bunch of ridiculous notions tied to helping those who have no desire to be helped or who constantly put themselves in a position to fail.  Save yourself first, then worry about others once you have something tangible to offer.

Another difficulty, and a real problem, in getting sober young is that many of us feel we shouldn’t be having the problems associated with old farts so young.  This line of thought, left unchecked, is the undoing of many young alcoholics early in their recovery – some of whom will wind up dead well before their natural time because of it.  There is no easy way around this, a young person in recovery simply must make bones with it – either you want a life or you want to live the rest of your time in misery.  Hey, you never know – maybe you can be the first ever to figure out the one thing, the one ingredient that nobody else (in the history of alcohol) has ever added to the mix, to have a decent life as a drunk.  If you can’t banish that kind of thinking from your melon, you’re sunk.  You can’t figure it out, you won’t figure it out, you will be miserable, one way or another, if you continue to drink – or you’ll be dead…that’s the only way I know.  All thoughts of hopeful drinking must be dealt with swiftly – they must be discarded, negated in the mind, before they have a chance to fester.  Period.

Finally, there are a slew of questions and misunderstandings that have to do with our future if we decide to quit drinking.  There are many ways to handle these.  It is important that they are kept in check:  “What will I do for fun”?  “Will I be able to meet someone”?  “Life is going to suck if I can’t go to parties anymore”.  “I’m going to be old and boring before my time”.  I could go on forever.  There are rational ways to counter these irrationalities as they pop up:

Remember that the thoughts are irrational.  How much fun can you have in a cell?  You’ll get a chance to meet Bubba, eventually if you keep it up, and maybe you’ll even get the chance to spoon him in your cell…  You get the idea.  The point is it is far more irrational to believe that you can drink successfully than to believe you can’t.

The Pros

We get to the good stuff, the pros of choosing a sober lifestyle young.  There are far too many to list, I could probably write a whole book on that subject alone and never get to a point where I could feel it was complete – there are that many benefits to a young, sober life.  Think about it, just for a second – if you’ve read this far, you know damned good and well that drinking holds a drunk back – what can a kid do with a life free from the terrible decisions related to being a drunk?  What can a kid do with all of the money that won’t be spent on alcohol (and the ensuing problems that come with it)?  How good can life get when you’re not being held back by addiction?  Think of it this way:  It’s the difference between running a triathlon freely, or with a 50 pound weight shackled to your neck.  The bike and run would certainly be uncomfortable but you could train to get used to it, but you’d never see the bike…  You’d drown on the swim.  I have a favorite response to the question, “How are you doing”?  “Keeping busy and staying out of trouble”.  Often people respond, “well that’s no fun” (to the “staying out of trouble” part), and I always assure them that yes, indeed, it is fun.  When you’ve seen enough trouble for one lifetime before you’ve even been old enough to drink for just more than one year in the first place, trouble looses its luster.

In addition, if you choose to follow a 12 Step program of recovery at a young age, if you take part in a fellowship of recovering/recovered people, you’ll have an advantage over a vast majority of the population.  You will have hundreds of mentors at your disposal who want nothing more than for you to have the best, most enjoyable life possible.  If you work toward this, if you show initiative and a desire to work through the issues that once confounded you, they will freely give you the most sacred of secrets:  How they did it.  You’ll have your whole life ahead of you to use their experience, strength and hope to your betterment.  Of course, far be it from me to point out that somebody will want to raise your taxes because you turned a disadvantage to an advantage without their help, but whatever – it’s worth that demonization.

To wrap this post up, going back to the verbal back and forth that I detailed in the first two paragraphs, the reason that the old fart gave me a hard time about sobering up young is simple;  He was jealous.  He wasted most of his adult life digging his hole.  By the time he stopped digging, he had a long way to climb to get out and a short time to enjoy the fresh air.  I stopped digging miles before he did.  I was just as desperate to get out of the whole I’d dug, but unlike the old fart, once I emerged I had most of my life left to live, free.

That last “pro” cancels out all of the “cons” put together and tied up with a nice pretty bow.

It’s Official – 20 years of continuous sobriety

About 4 and a half hours ago the reason for my celebration over the last 18 days became official. 20 Years, clean and sober.

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A lot has changed over the last 20 years. All of it good. Gone are the days of worrying if this would be the night I finally landed in prison. Gone are the days of risking my life (and that of others) to get my car home. Gone are the blackouts, the excuses, the lies and the moral depravity. Gone are the shortcomings that I held onto – that kept me drunk. Gone are the hangovers. Gone are the lost jobs, lost friends. Best of all, gone are the lonely days and nights. I haven’t heard, in 20 years, a sentence that starts out, “you’re such a good person, but…” Or, “we love you, but…”

The only “but” in my life is the significantly toned one that I sit on.

In the place of the things that are gone are things like humility (believe me, it’s in there somewhere), honesty, honor, decency and integrity… I haven’t gotten so much as a speeding ticket in years. Though I still have my fleas, they won’t land me in the unemployment line, jail, prison or divorce court.

I have a fantastic fantastic life that I look forward to, rather than a toxic existence that had people running for cover. The People of the State of Michigan can rest easy yet again – for at least another 24 hours.

A birthday 8-10 mile trail run is on tap for today, followed by a short bike ride and bowling this evening. There will be no work today, of any kind.

If you know an alcoholic, send them here… On Monday I’ll be working on a recovery page for my blog, a one stop shop for my recovery based posts – and for the love of God, let them know: Life doesn’t have to be like that, anymore. A decision, a commitment and a little bit of uncomfortable work, and the pain will start turning to happiness. It’s not easy, but it’s worth every second.

On a final note, I met with my mentor Friday night. He looked at me and said, “So, 20 years huh? Yeah, that’s a pretty good start”. He’s got over 31 years. Everyone’s a comedian.