There once was a time when I read up on training plans, followed the most stringent nutrition plans I ever had (this was still pretty loose – do not make the mistake of thinking I went all “Whole Foods”… For me, giving up Coke was a pretty big deal), tried to work in proper rest days – even had plans for a lot more rest this season and I made sure to maintain a strict on board fueling regimen… All in the hopes of getting faster and riding with greater stamina…
This season hasn’t unfolded at all as I’d envisioned it. The plan was for two days off a week, I’ve managed to stick to one but only because it’s rained once a week. I planned on fewer miles but I’m way up over last year. The one big change, the one counterintuitive change I should say, is that I’m cycling a lot with my wife, at least twice a week at a slower average than I ever had before, this year… And I’m in way better shape than last year – and I’m ten pounds heavier (by request from Mrs. Bgddy).
A bunch of B+ cyclists head out every Fourth of July for somewhere between 60-80 miles and I’ve participated the in the last three. It’s always been what we would call and “easier” ride at somewhere between 18 and 19 mph but yesterday’s was a fluke… We had unseasonably cool temps to start (53 degrees)22, that’s where I can wipe myself out if I’m not careful to hang at the back of the group quite a bit. Instead, I was rock solid all day long. Shooting from the back of the group to the front, out of the draft, to talk with friends, playing “last one to the top is a loser” with a kid half my age who works at the shop… It was fun and games right up till the last couple of miles when we started hammering with a tailwind.
In total I ate a Snickers and drank a Coke at the first and only rest stop, had one Gu, half a Perpetuem laced H2O and drank one other straight water, for 70 miles. There’s no way I could have gotten away with so little last year, even factoring in the cool weather.
If that wasn’t awesome enough, afterwards I went out for another sixteen miles with Mrs. Bgddy and thankfully she took it pretty easy on me, it took about 35 minutes for her to get ready and out the door so I had enough time for the adrenalin to wear off. Even so, there’s no way I could have done that (or even wanted to) last year – and to top that off, we were outside having a family badminton tournament just a few hours later.
My buddy Mike, earlier this spring, when I mentioned my plans to get myself in better shape, when I laid out my drills and interval sets on my training rides to him, replied simply, “Nope, it’s all about the miles”. He went on to explain himself, about how he rides crazy miles – 70+ a day (he’s retired) and at a pace slow enough that I’d be amazed, but he’s always been just a little faster than me… I thought he was nuts. Turns out he might have had a point there, and I’m having way more fun in the process.
Yesterday was a real eye opener and I’d say I can’t wait for the rest of the season to unfold, but that wouldn’t be quite right. I’m going to enjoy every day of the rest of this season because I’m having more fun than a guy should be allowed to (with his clothes on).
Inspired by a Second Rate Cyclist post…
Told you brother. In the living room. The gray one is my wife’s. Oh yes.
70 miles with 13 of my cycling buds (ironic indeed) at 20 mph average and then 16 more with Mrs. Bgddy.
I’m beat, but in a really good way. On the menu for dinner? Anything I want and plenty of it. Happy Fourth!
Happy Independence Day my friends!
On this Independence Day, please reflect on exactly what we declared independence from…
A ruling class, over-bearing government that pontificated from on high, that made its subjects pay tax on stuff it had no business charging tax on while failing to properly represent the People whom it so freely leeched off of.
If you didn’t just say, “oh s#!t”, please… Continue reflecting. Until you do.
In my post the other day, I wrote about how my life really is good times and noodle salad, there’s another side to it. I didn’t quite spell it out this way in that post but the truth is, my life is good because I make it so and because I believe it is so.
Here’s the other side of that coin:
My wife and the kids and her dad and step-mom and sister and her kids are all heading out on Saturday for a week’s vacation. Unfortunately, with some new work picked up, there’s simply no way that I’ll be able to make it – in fact. It’s simply an impossibility (believe me, I’ve tried to figure out a way to make it work – if wanting to spend the time with my family weren’t enough, and it is, I’d only be maybe fifty miles from the most spectacular cycling roads in all of Michigan, a track that I’ve wanted to cycle ever since I started riding a bike)… This is, in part, because we’re also heading down to Georgia later this summer as well and I can’t just pack up and drive home from that one.
Now, many folks would look at that as a reason to be mad, to hate their life, to be depressed and so on. I’m not that guy! The fact that I have to miss this one holds a host of reasons to be okay with it even if I would rather take a week off – after all, it’s been almost eight months since my last vacation. So instead of complaining, here is a short list of reasons that I can be grateful for having to miss out this time:
1. As much as I hate it, I’ll have some time away from my wife and kids. In my case, absence makes my heart grow fonder. By the time they come home, I’ll be beside myself.
2. I’ll be able to ride in the Hell of a Ride in Hell, Michigan (yes, you can say it’s hot as Hell in the summer or Hell has frozen over January through February) with my friends next Saturday.
3. I’ll have time to put in some serious evening miles.
4. I’ll have some time to get some things done around the house that I’ve wanted to get to but never had the time.
5. I’ll be able to get a lot of work caught up.
So, while there’s no doubt that I’ll miss out on being able to hang with my family on vacation (I am not your average guy – I married into a fantastic family – I am lucky enough to enjoy vacationing with them) and I will have to work through yet another vacation, my career was my choice. I could complain – God knows, I’ve got reason to, but the truth is you’ve gotta do what you gotta do and complaining about it is useless…
Every once in a while I have to get my butt in the kitchen and make my own noodle salad.
Last night’s club ride was amazing, fun, brutally tough, ugly and awesome, all wrapped into 37 hot, windy miles… On pulling into the parking lot when it was all over, I was left wishing that I was still tracking rides with Endomondo – we flirted with 34 miles an hour a few times. With the wind out of the southeast and swirling a bit, we all knew four things: First, the initial mile and a half was going to suck. The next five would be blisteringly fast. The next ten were going to be miserable. The last 14 were going to be fun and fast. The seven mile warm up was, well we’ll call it relaxed as Mike and I showed up plenty early enough to take it easy warming up the legs.
The ride started at 6 pm on the nose, as usual and as with all high-wind days, riding was sketchy. After that first mile and a half, we turned north and the speed jumped from a reasonable 18 mph to almost 30 (48 km/h) where it stayed until we turned back into the cross headwind for a mile. Then it was north and back up to 28 when my buddy Mike and I decided to get out of the fray and pick up a few strays so we could form a group of our own, something smaller and more manageable. We ended up with a group of four plus a tandem and one helluva headwind – pulling up front for more than a half-mile was all but impossible.
We kept together easily into the wind until we came up on the first series of hills – the one place where I absolutely suck in a group of cyclists at or slightly above my ability… I have absolutely no business pulling up a hill because I am a climbing monster if I’m not already red-lined. Throw in the fact that we had a tandem with us and I should have been at the back, coasting behind everyone else – uphill. It took me all of 1/2 of the first hill to dump the rest of the group. By the time I hit the top of the fourth roller and signaled for the next guy to pull, nobody passed. I took a quick glance and I’d opened a quarter of a mile gap.
While that could seem kinda cool, when you’re actually trying to keep a group together so we can split the effort into a gnarly wind, opening up a gap like that is not cool. At that point, I was faced with a decision: Stay away or slow down and let everyone catch up… I decided that I’d let them catch me but without making it easy. I figured I was out there to work, so work I would. It took the four of them ten miles to reel me in and I can tell you, I was about blown up when they did. Still I managed to hold on for the big push west where we were maintaining about 26 mph with the cross-tailwind. With a mile to go, we were up to 28 mph and we finished with a sprint that had us topping out at about 33.
Going back to my hill problem, the way I train has a lot to do with my tendency to drop people when I pull up front. I have written about and recommended increasing speed up hills rather than slowing down as a way to introduce intervals into a regular training ride. Unfortunately, doing this has not only made me faster and stronger on the flats, it’s helped me to climb better than most – most normal people treat hills as a time to just grind out the distance. Also, when I’m riding those hills with the “A” guys, I’m usually at “red-line” which means my little advantage over guys of my caliber is just enough to hold on so I’m usually grinding just stay with them anyway. That said, I have a little “mental glitch” that I haven’t been able to fix yet – something that adds to my penchant for pulling too hard uphill… I am really hard on myself when I pull. For some reason I assume that the guys behind me are thinking that I’m a wuss for not pulling hard enough – that they’re not getting my fair share out of me. What ends up happening is that I pull too hard and drop everybody.
To look at this simply, I have a committee member in my melon that gets way too much pull when I’m up front – and this goes all the way back to what led me to drinking in the first place… In the circles of recovery where I run, we refer to this jokingly as being “an egomaniac with an inferiority complex”. While I do have a healthy ego nowadays (that is to say, at least it’s in check), cycling in a group has provided a new challenge with the inferiority complex – and working on that usually gets the back seat when I’m working on more pressing issues. That isn’t to say I haven’t ever worked on it before, many of my “recovery” posts go into great detail about the inferiority complex and how I’ve battled it in the past… This time represents something new – or more properly stated, a new twist to an old problem.
As is so often the case, as time goes on and I broaden my horizons, when I’m presented with a new challenge I often revert back to that old, pre-programmed way of dealing with things. The thing I find interesting is that you’d think after 20 years of recovery the newer, proper thinking process would have become the pre-programmed way of dealing with new stressors. Funny, that.
My favorite one-liner of all time is in the movie As Good as It Gets, the noodle salad line:
“It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good. ”
My childhood was, interesting… Yes, that’s the word for it. On one hand I had everything I could ask for: Good looks, intelligence, a dad who made a lot of money and a mom who wasn’t afraid to spend it – everything should have been perfect. Unfortunately the other side of that coin was really dark, it was the part that gave me the push I needed to drop into full-blown alcoholism before I was old enough to buy alcohol on my own.
Fast forward 21 years of recovery, fixing that which was wrong with me and I can paint a pretty awesome picture of my life. To sum it up in a few short words; Work harder, play harder, love well and let the rest work out in the wash. I’m not perfect but I am good enough for government work and my life is pretty much, finally, good times and noodle salad. Now, would someone else see my life as being all that great? Well, it’s 3:15 am and I’m writing this post rather than sleeping. At 5 am I’ll get in the shower, get ready for work where I’ll climb on top of a mountain of a job that I’m behind the eight ball on and only have eight weeks to complete, whilst playing Monopoly with real money that I don’t have and can’t afford to lose. On the bright side, I’ll leave the office for home at about 3 pm so I can get home and get ready for the Tuesday night club ride. We’ll start the warm up lap (7-10 miles) at 5:10 and the real ride (30 or 33 miles depending) at 6. After, around 7:30, I’ll pack up my bike and head over to Burger King for my favorite Tuesday night dinner. I’ll eat in the car while listening to the Tigers’ game on the radio. After dinner I’ll head home, shower, watch most of the rest of the game and fall asleep on the couch. Tomorrow I’ll do it all over again. There’s a lot of risk in my life, but the rewards are pretty cool too, and my recovery from alcoholism makes the whole ball of wax fun and possible…
Then there are nights like last night… I left from the office and headed home to pick up my wife and kids. After we were all ready, we got in the car and headed down to meet my sister, her son, husband and his daughter for a night of laser tag. To say it was a good time would be an understatement, it was an absolute blast. We played family against family first, then the top two (my wife and my brother-in-law’s daughter) picked teams. After two games we stuck around and played arcade games and skeeball before heading over to my sister’s place for dinner (subs, salad and, humorously enough, noodle salad). Afterward, we sat around and chatted about the evening, keeping an eye on the Tigers game. It was one of those noodle salad nights. No, we weren’t spending an evening enjoying caviar on a yacht in Lake Huron, it was just a simple family evening and we all had a blast.
Here’s the deal: My enjoyment of life isn’t about that highfalutin flash. Sure that’s nice every now and again but where it’s really at, where I find happiness, is in enjoying my life within my means, simply. My happiness is noodle salad, my wife and kids and time spent with my family. For me, that really is as good as it gets (at least for now – only God knows what’s in store for me…).
To Thine Own Self Be True…
All too often we find ourselves competing with the Jones’es. This family can afford a vacation to the Bahamas, that family has a big brand new house… So and so has a brand new sports car and that lady down the street has a $15,000 race bike. When we look at these material things, rarely do we look at what must be given up to afford such things. This is akin to comparing what you feel like on the inside to someone else’s “outside” material possessions. I know what I have, what I can afford and what I can’t. I could have a nicer car and a bigger house and some sweet vacations but at what cost? The price for having more stuff is working longer hours or worse, having my wife hold down a full-time job. I don’t want my wife to have to work though. I like not having to help with the laundry and dealing with the kids’ homework. I like not having to go to parent/teacher conferences… Doing those things would take even more of what time I have – my wife and I function as a perfect team in this regard. Instead of the noodle salad moment I had last night, I’d have been stuck in the office. Instead of all of those miles I ride, I’d be putting the daily rides off until I was able to retire – hoping that I made it safe and healthy to retirement in the first place.
Instead, we opt for a bit of a simpler, vastly happier life today. This is our choice and as long as I keep my attention where it belongs, on my balance (and “stuff”), I remain a very happy man. It’s only when I covet what others have (without looking at what they give up to have it) that I find myself jealous. It is then that I choose to covet someone else’s noodle salad, and I fail to see the heaping plateful sitting in front of me.