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Monthly Archives: May 2013

7,500 x 24 hours…

In learning that my mentor (sponsor) reached Billionaire status in his sobriety I accidentally stumbled upon the fact that today is my 7,500th x 24 hours of continuous sobriety.

While mine is a big deal (at least to me), my friend’s Billionaire status is huge.

So, if you’re curious about what Billionaire status means, sadly it is not related to money. My friend recently surpassed One Billion seconds of continuous sobriety – in years that’s 31.688. Here’s the significance:

When I was just a young lad my father explained the national debt in terms of seconds, actually counting. He said that if I counted from 1 to 1 Billion I would die of old age before I got there. The reason for this is that counting anything greater than 1,000 starts taking more than a second to utter the number (try it with a stop watch)… So even if you figured two seconds per number (which is still fast), you’re looking at over 63 years.

So, more than a decade ago, I tied that little lesson to my sobriety and decided that I’d throw a party when (and let’s face it, if) I hit my 1 billionth second. So we said a little hoorah for my sponsor this morning – it’s a heck of a milestone.

Now, for my 7,500th day, there is no significance to that number, it’s just a neat, big, round number and I didn’t even know until I stumbled on it this morning, hanging out with my friends before another busy day of work. Call it a small nicety and a reason to be grateful for the day.

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The Magical Cure For Sluggish Shifting…

I have a Trek 5200 – the exact same model and components (with the exception of a triple crank set) that Lance won (or is that didn’t win now?) the Tour de France on in 1999.

I went for more than a year thinking I had the cat’s meow when it came to rides – technically, for as old as my bike is, it’s quite mechanically sound even if it is beat up a bit. The thing that I really held in high regard was the Shimano Ultegra drivetrain – the shifting is impeccable. I wasn’t used to a bike that didn’t require constant tinkering to get the shifting indexed right, and I certainly didn’t have to tinker with anything – the bike shifted like a dream (or so I thought).

Fast forward to this spring and I began the season happy as can be. Then some time about mid-April I ran into a problem with the rear derailleur cable sticking – it actually made an odd creaking sound coming from the frame when I shifted. I took the bike in to the shop to have it looked at and the tech took all of my standard issue 4mm cable housing off and swapped it for 5mm housing. The problem was not actually with the housing (though it was definitely showing signs of wear) but rather than worry about problems later on he recommended switching them while I had the bike under the knife anyway.

My word, it’s nothing short of amazing! Now, Walter, my favorite Mechanic other than Matt (who actually apprenticed in England – dude, the guy knows bikes), said that the shifting should improve and that the higher end bikes have been going with the 4mm cable housing for some time but he always liked the 5mm because the cable is a lot freer to move inside the 5 (even properly lubed).

So, if you feel your bike is shifting sluggishly, first try lubing the cable, but if that doesn’t work, try switching to 5mm cable housing. It made my bike even better (and my pseudo love affair with my Treks should be fairly well-known).

My wife’s bike will go in, needed or not, as soon as we can get it in (without effecting our riding schedule)… While the change isn’t necessary on her bike yet, as far as I’m concerned, I want my wife to get the most out of her bike, and that’s a very easy and inexpensive way to improve it.

What Fit Looks Like… A Noob’s Guide on Cycling to Fitness

I make a pretty big deal about being able to, for the most part, eat whatever I want while still having to be careful not to get too skinny.  At 6′ tall and 160 pounds I’m definitely on the light side but as far as actual health goes, I’m perfect in terms of BMI and most other measurements (right in the middle).  For the longest time I’ve sought to give a bench mark, a way of illustrating how I do what I do to be in the admittedly enviable position that I’m in.  I’ve discussed my diet on numerous occasions which would make many chuckle or shudder in horror.  To say I treat my taste buds and digestive system like a playground is an understatement though I’ve managed excellent portion control for quite some time.  The one major dietary change that I did make was dropping soda and that came about when I started training for triathlons a couple of years ago.  I had a pretty unhealthy soda habit going at the time, roughly 4-5 two liters of Coke a week which translated into about 4,000 extra calories at the end of the week.  Now I haven’t completely done away with all of those calories – I drink a lot in the way of sports drinks now to keep up on my electrolyte replacement after a serious deficiency problem when I was limiting myself to just water immediately after I gave up soda.

So with the diet part documented and out of the way, let’s get to what really makes everything work like a well-oiled machine…  The workout.

Three years ago, exercise consisted of running three days a week.  This was okay but just not enough…  At 171 pounds I had a bit in the way of a gut and a couple of nice love handles.  On top of having to work those off every spring I grew bored with running.  I liked it but I never really loved it as many others do.  I found joy in cycling and with that, the ability to ride every day (as long as I take care not to push to my limit on a daily basis – I mix in slower recovery rides and easier efforts in with the hard-core full-on efforts:  17.5-18 mph, 18.5-19 mph and 19.5-21.5 mph respectively).

This is what May looks like so far…  Now, you’ll be able to figure out which workouts are running by the little stick figure, but the cycling guys are as follows:  The one where the guy looks like he’s riding up a hill is Mountain Biking.  The one where the guy is sitting upright on the bike represents the easier efforts and the one where the guy looks like he’s riding down in the drops represents the hard effort.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

This year I’ve taken it pretty easy compared to last year.  First of all, the days off all represent rain days – last year I didn’t have much in the way of that many days off in a month (usually just two or three at the most).  Also, last May I was riding a lot more miles (600 compared to 450 this month).  Reality has settled in a little bit as I just don’t have the time that I did last year.  My daughters are in softball, my wife and I are riding together on Fridays now, I’ve been riding with the girls a lot more, and I’m doubly busy at work – all good things so I’ve been more than willing to take a bit of a hit on my overall mileage.  The truth is that while I did get a lot of enjoyment out of riding last year, riding with my family, while slower and not as productive, is immensely more enjoyable and worthwhile.  As far as time goes, my average ride time is just over one hour a day.  While the bureaucrats suggest a meager half hour, I have a couple of problems with that.  First, while there are benefits to a half hour of exercise, that’s at the low-end.  If you read the fine print the actual recommendation is for 45 minutes at least five days a week.  Second, a half hour just isn’t enough for me.  An hour gets me sufficiently winded and gets the endorphins kicking (which is what I want).  The overall look of my month will change a little bit when I get into June and July as I start mixing in some really long rides (80+ miles), but for the most part, if one wants to ditch the couch and really get into decent shape, this is what the commitment looks like.  It may not be easy at first but once I got into a rhythm, I’ve gotten to a point where I need that 1/24th of my day in the saddle.

Happy riding.

P.S. There is a small caveat to using cycling as the sole means to getting fit…  Without any impact associated with something like running, the bones can become brittle over time.  A jog or run every now and again helps to counter that.

492,000 Calories worth of fat that never saw my gut...

492,000 Calories worth of fat that never saw my gut…

Heads Up, A Noob’s Guide to Safe Cycling

I could have ended up in the hospital yesterday – again.  An idiot in a blue Chevy Cobalt passed me to make a right turn into a gas station, 10 feet in front of me – and then the dope stopped with his back end sticking out into the bike lane to wait for a pump to open up.  Of course, when he heard me yell at him and give him the one finger salute, he looked at me with a befuddled ‘what’ look on his stupid face.

That 10′ is not and exaggeration. I skidded both tires and ended up lifting the back end off of the ground at the end of the stop – according to Endomondo I was going 23.8 mph just before the near crash.  There are a few simple things I did that kept me from having a Chevy emblem permanently embedded in my forehead..

Folks, this isn’t going to be one of those, ride on the right side of the road, don’t forget your melon protector, make sure your brakes work, posts.

If you think you’re safer on the left side of the street, or the sidewalk, it is because you are ignorant.  You’re several times more likely to be hit riding on the left or the sidewalk than if you’re riding on the proper side of the road (I’m from the US – adjust accordingly for your country).  If I remember correctly, only 3% of bicycle accidents occur with the cyclist obeying the law, riding with traffic.  If you don’t wear a brain cover – hey, it’s your melon.  Of course, one of my best riding buddies passed out on his bike because he didn’t drink enough. Guess what hit the ground first?  Now maybe you ride like a six year-old girl at 7 mph so you wouldn’t possibly be putting out the effort to pass out, if that’s the case – hey, it’s America, do what you like.  Just don’t come drooling to me when you’re peeing through a tube into a bag attached to your wheel chair.

Nope folks, this is one of those advanced noob posts.

Know your environment
I know every inch of pavement on my 16, 18, 23, 25, 30 and 35.5 mile routes. I know where the pot holes and cracks are. More importantly, I know where the rough traffic areas are so I’m always prepared.  If you’re in a new environment, use the knowledge that you’ve gained on your regular routes to navigate unfamiliar roads.

Head on a Swivel
If you’re on busy roads, and I ride on some high traffic roads, you must be aware of everything going on around you.  Listen for cars, look around you and slow up when something doesn’t feel right.

Trust your Instincts
Humans are the only animal on the planet that will tell you it’s rude to trust your instincts, to ignore them. When a gazelle sees a cheetah stalking it, the gazelle doesn’t stop and wait to ask if the cheetah’s feelings will be hurt if the gazelle runs away.  No, that gazelle shits ‘n gits. Put that silly BS in the saddle bag and listen to those instincts.

Expect that motorists are dumber than your left butt cheek
More often than not, you’ll be mistaken but when it counts, when you’re right, it could save your life. Motorists, like the one that cut me off yesterday can be unbelievably stupid.  Count on it and remember:  If you’re dead, it doesn’t matter if the accident was their fault.

Hands on the Hoods
When in high traffic areas, at high speeds, your hands are on the hoods or drops right at the brakes.

Head’s Up
That extra half-mile per hour isn’t worth not being able to see problems unfolding.  Keep the head up when you’re on a main road or a road with a lot of driveways.

Pay Attention!
‘Nough said.

Now, in my almost accident yesterday, here’s how it unfolded – and I used each of those tips in a few seconds…

As I wrote earlier, I was moving.  Solo, with a crosswind on the flat pushing at almost 24 mph.  The part of town that I was riding through is pretty busy, especially around 5 in the evening.  There’s a Hungry Howie’s and a gas station right next to each other so they draw a lot of traffic.  I know that this is a spot that carries a big potential for trouble.  I saw the Chevy pull up along side me but he was going painfully slow – I was only 6 mph under the speed limit but it didn’t make sense that he didn’t pass me a bit faster than that.  I didn’t like it so I let off just a bit.  Sure enough, he wasn’t passed my front wheel when he put his blinker on and we weren’t 30 yards from the entrance to the gas station.  I was coasting by then, hands working down to the brakes – and that’s when he cut it, right in front of me to get into the gas station.  In short, the only thing that kept me out of the hospital yesterday was the fact that I saw his dumb ass coming.  I was paying attention, I had my head up, I had my hands on the hoods, I expected the driver of that car to be dumber than my left but cheek, trusted that instinct, had my head on a swivel and I knew the environment.

Be safe and don’t let your guard down, it’s a jungle out there.

This is Water…

If you watch anything today, watch the clip in this post. It holds the key to happiness.

College Tri

Watch this awesome video.

I’m starting to learn just how real the situations presented are. And unfortunately, it’s come at a cost to this blog. So many hours in the field and processing samples has been much more draining than I had initially expected. When I get home, all I want to do is relax, get some basic chores done, and use my brain with some strategy games (Civilization IV!). As a result, I haven’t spent much time writing posts over the last couple weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to do this, quite the opposite actually. However, I am not a natural writer and doing these posts feels like work sometimes, I have to put quite a bit of effort into it.

So, moving forward, I’m planning on focusing on product reviews as that seems to be what most people like. I’ll still get the occasional personal post…

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Righteous Indignation…

Often, we are give an allowance for righteous indignation – the act of what is commonly angry for something that is perceived as “unfair”.  Politicians make a living on righteous indignation.  This person or corporation should pay more in taxes than you because they make more than you, that minority group should have an unfair advantage over another group because life is unfair, name it and someone is being treated unfairly and should therefore either get a break or pay less than everyone else.  We alcoholics, those still using and especially those new to recovery have to deal with righteous indignation on a regular basis.  How could that be?

Well, I didn’t exactly quit drinking because I was on a winning streak.  I would say that “very few of us do”, but I’ve never actually met an alcoholic that did quit on a winning steak – they’re rather like unicorns.  Well, once we set to cleaning the wreckage of our past we end up running into some tough going from time to time.  Things don’t always work out as we think they should and we have to do a little extra work in setting things straight.  So it will go like this:  Bob got his second DUI and is dealing with the legal drama that comes with a second – the expense too…  To please the judge, Bob’s lawyer has him go to AA meetings and have a sheet signed to present the court.  In the process, Bob figures out that he really wants to quit so he goes about setting things right.  His court date comes around and he’s sentenced to some form of treatment or community service that he believes is unfair, after all, he’s already given the judge his signed sheets…  He’s proving that he is rectifying the problem!

Well folks, what happens next is righteous indignation.  In other words, Bob’s got himself a point.  He is taking the necessary steps, he has put in the effort.

I can point this at myself too…  I have a tendency to get really worked up when women, who themselves are displaying their own righteous indignation about what they see as a sexist society.  I throw my righteous indignation into the ring because all too often women will indict the whole of the male race when they lash out against their perceived injustice because not only was I raised better than that, most of the men I know were as well.  The indictment, therefore isn’t against the majority of men, it’s against the minority – and somehow we’re all made to pay because of it.  Therein lies the rub.

Fortunately, because I am a recovering drunk, for the most part (and though I am not always able to stick to this – I am human after all) we have a little help when it comes to righteous indignation…  I simply accept the fact that I don’t do it very well.  Looked at another way, because of my nature, I’m not suited to allow myself the luxury.  Now, I mustn’t allow myself to be treated as a door mat for surely, most people who don’t anger are treated inappropriately at best, usually much worse so finding a balance is incredibly important.

The ability to keep ones cool takes practice as we all know and the best place is to start with the knowledge that one doesn’t do righteous indignation well.  Better to leave that to others who are better equipped.

Now, there’s a payoff, because let’s face it, who would give up getting their undies in a bunch now and again?  It can be invigorating after all.  The payoff is control.  The payoff is being able to disagree without making a big scene over small potatoes.  Eventually, with enough practice, you become less reliant on others and become better suited to handle life.  It’s the only way I know that keeps me off of the bar stool and relatively happy.

Next up, I think I’ll write about practice – because letting go of righteous indignation takes a lot of practice.

A New Personal Best For My Little Ladies

On our way home from the in-law’s house yesterday we stopped in Clare at the famed Pere-Marquette rail trail to unload the bikes for one last bike ride before getting back to the normality of work and running around.

Road construction determined our route home and that we stop in Clare rather than Midland. I gave the family their choice of routes, either secluded, wooded and beautiful or modern, busy and nice… They went for the secluded, wooded route.

20130527-200353.jpg It was a nice day for a ride, almost 70, breezy and cloudy. We stopped often to check out a creek or river but kept a fairly lively pace for a ride with the kids. We had planned on an out and back seven or eight miles.

20130527-200816.jpg Before I knew it we’d passed the four mile mark without a complaint (!). After a bit, my wide and I decided we’d turn around at five.

The return trip was a little tougher as far as complaints went so we put the youngest out front to let her pull. Sure enough, the complaints stopped and the pace picked up. A half hour later my ladies and I pulled up to the car, 10 miles behind us. The elder daughter, God bless her, was awesome, chewing up the miles. The youngest, at six years-old, had her longest ride ever (by doubling her previous best).

That was a perfect cap to a fantastic weekend. Plenty of food, softball practice, snacks (s’mores!) and miles.

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