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Monthly Archives: August 2014

On Robin Williams Passing: Sobriety is a Promise to No One…

I won’t spend too much time writing about what Robin Williams meant to me even though it was a lot, simply because I believe gushing over someone who committed suicide romanticizes the act in the eyes of others – well, at least I had daydreams of people waxing on about what a great guy I was had I gone through with it back when my life sucked, before I was able to finally stay sober for more than a few days in a row.  I will say this though:  Good Morning Vietnam was one of the few movies my parents and all of the siblings could watch and laugh hysterically over during a pretty dark time in our family.  Add to that the fact that he was one of the few who could make me laugh about being a drunk, by making his own recovery into a comedy sketch, at a time when laughing about anything wasn’t very easy, he held a special place in my heart.

Too bad, this.

Sobriety is a sweet paradox.  On one hand, it’s very simple:  Don’t drink, do some soul maintenance, maybe learn to work a few steps well, maybe go to a couple of meetings with some other like-minded folks and you get to live a full, happy life.  You show me a cure for cancer that looks like this and I’ll show you a freaking line a mile long to get into those meetings.  On the other hand, it’s a tough life.  There is no escape from the committee in the melon, only a heads-up battle.  Those who lose the battle, end up like Mr. Williams and it sucks.

There is something positive I do take out of something like this though:  Sobriety is promised to no one.  My sobriety is a daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of a spiritual, healthy heart, mind and soul.  It doesn’t matter how much money one has, in fact those with extraordinary means usually have the most difficult time sobering up.   Social status, in a roomful of ex-drunks means nothing, we all ended up in that room one way or another and the circumstances and stories all sound pretty much the same once you cook the particulars out.  There are no cheat days.  We call a friend of mine, a guy who will never be famous, Near Beer.  He used to drink near beer thinking he could get the taste without that pesky problem of the alcohol.  Eventually, because there is alcohol in near beer and a drunk’s body and brain are very aware of this fact, he ended up back at the real thing and it took yet another spectacular spiral for him to quit again.  He says, every time a noob proposes the near beer solution (and often non-prompted), “Near beer, near death.”

Long story short, the only chance I have at a happy life, no matter what is thrown at me, is sober, working on being the best version of me I can possibly be.  Anything less is near death.  Rest in peace Robin – from one ex-drunk to another, you missed the simplest step:

Keep it simple, stupid.

 

I’m Back

I’m back from my yearly week-long sabbatical to the mountains of northern Georgia and I’m full of some excessive pep… We’re do for some serious rain over the next couple of days so I had a small window through which to fit a ride rather than take three forced days off in a row (our last day in Georgia was a wash/fog out, then today and tomorrow at home – chance of rain and thunderstorms: 100%). I’ve got a meeting later this morning so rather than head into the office I knocked out a quick training ride. I was amazed at how much faster I was on that route than normal – I expect a nice bump after spending a week climbing hills on a daily basis, but this was ridiculous (more on this in the next post).

Normally I make a pretty big deal about heading down there and I write about my adventures daily. This year I wanted things to be a little different though…

Between work, family, cycling, a little jog every now and again and this blog, I lead a full and busy life and for once I wanted to give my wife and kids the most attentive me possible (read that present, mentally as well as physically) so I let the posts and reading the blogs I follow slide for a short while. I’d have given up work as well but I can never really escape work except weekends.

I’ve also been hiding couple of things over the last month…

I have a raging case of tendonitis in my right forearm/elbow. I know what the prescription is (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) but I’m simply not okay with that first part (Rest) so I’ve been rolling through the pain. The cause is a little trickier… First is cycling – my miles are way up and I’m riding harder and faster than ever. Second is writing posts on my iPhone – my arm is aching just writing this post (and it was just fine after I got off the bike and took my shower). Third has to do with posture and computer placement at the office. My chair is just a little low so I type at an odd angle. The problem is I can only drop the second item on the list without adverse effects in happiness and income. So my goal is to make it the next 2-1/2 months through the season to rest up over the winter (riding on the trainer is a lot easier on the arms and I’ll try to hunt down a better chair for the desk).

The other had to do with diet… I wanted to see for myself, with no hype or expectations, what a fast food diet would do to me. I’ve eaten some form of fast food every day for the last month. Every day, either for lunch, dinner or both on several days.

I look exactly like I did the day I started this, I haven’t gained a pound and I feel quite good.  In fact, thanks to that week in the mountains, my jeans fit better than day one (in the waist…  The thighs, well that’s another story).    Now the equation for this little experiment is highly relevant – but I did really lousy in algebra, so let me lay this out simply:  You take the number of Calories you would typically burn in a day (base only), then add the calories you burn in a day exercising… Then figure out the calories you eat, in a day – which should be slightly less than the amount you burned.  Do this on a consistent basis and you too can stay exactly where you are!  Now, this choice in diet isn’t for everyone.  Some people react differently to certain foods, some are even addicted to eating that way…  Look, I’m a recovering drunk and you won’t catch me around anything that even resembles alcohol unless I have a damned good reason for being there (and I am mentally capable of handling the situation).  If you happen to be one of those people who can’t turn down that third Whopper, for God’s sake, don’t try this.  A line from Gone In 60 Seconds (the Nick Cage version) comes to mind:  “I can’t swim so I stay my ass out the pool”.  It is what it is, we can complain and whine about it, but that won’t change much.

Now that the rocket science is over I’m looking forward to getting back to a more normal diet – if I see another Big Mac for a month, I’m liable to nod off in a dazed, befuddled stare.  Good Lord am I bored!

When a $4,000 Race Bike is Worth Every Penny – Part Two

I went out for another go on a nice, steep descent this morning… Something I failed to articulate in part one, that is incredibly important to this post: Fast on a $4,000 race bike (my Venge) is not the same as fast on a low-end bike. 40 miles per hour is scary on my Cannondale and 45 is a little spooky on my old 5200. The Venge is a different animal. Speeds over 50 mph don’t even evoke an afterthought… The ride is so solid it’s beautiful, hard to put into words really…

I didn’t hit the magic century mark (100 km/h) but I was close:

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I got every last mph out of that hill too – pedaled the big gear to escape velocity, tucked as low as I could go, kept the legs tight to the frame to minimize drag… It was wonderful!

And it made me smile. Worth every penny.

When a $4,000 Race Bike is Worth Every Penny

Road bike: $4,000
Cycling Kit (clothes etc.): $750
Mountain vacation: $3,000
The climb up the mountain: Torture

Breaking the 45 mph speed limit on the descent: Priceless

Copyright

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The descent was smooth as silk… Previously, my best was just over 45 mph and that felt spooky on my old 5200… On the Venge, I’ll be trying for 60 tomorrow – I had a lot left.

Worth every penny.

As a side note, I do not condone riding a bicycle in an unsafe manner, especially considering one’s experience. My equipment is meticulously maintained and cared for. Even so, riding a bike at high speeds is inherently dangerous. Do so at your own risk.

Decisions, Decisions…

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People always look at me oddly when I respond to their asking how I’m doing by saying, “Everybody should be lucky enough to have my problems…”

This is what I mean.

No Defense of the Podium for Me…

It’s a rare day that I can miss a ride and be happy about it. Rarer still is a day that I miss a ride and a chance to turn my second place finish from last year into a first place… Such is the case today – it’s a happy day.

The Tour des Lac is today and instead of being in the midst of mile 20 right now, I’m typing this from the couch because today Mrs. Bgddy is down in Fenton turning the crank.

I’m very particular about getting my miles in and there are a couple of rides a year I just won’t miss… But for any other reason, this would have been one of them.

Some things in life are far more important.

A Noob’s Guide to Road Bike Weight: When Bike Weight Matters, And When it Doesn’t

When I started cycling seriously, I had one of the oldest, heaviest bikes in our local club… At least one of the heaviest for the fast guys. I lost twenty pounds almost immediately and when you added the bike plus me, I was lighter than most.  My bike had old components such as down tube shifters and it was hard to keep up with the quick-shifting integrated shifter guys. I had to work harder.  Then I upgraded to a 19 pound, Ultegra kitted, super-bike… A Trek 5200, almost the exact same bike Lance Armstrong rode in the TdF in ’99.  I was new enough that I could feel the difference in the ride of the bike, the difference between carbon fiber and aluminum, but not the two-pound weight difference. The integrated shifters/brake lever drivetrain was also a huge difference, even if I didn’t know how to shift it properly yet.

The important gist of that last paragraph, in case you missed it, was that I was too green in cycling to feel a two-pound weight improvement when I upgraded bikes.

Today, cycling is a completely different ballgame. That 5200, as fantastic as that bike is (more State Championships were won on that frame than any bike frame, ever), has been relegated to my backup, nasty weather bike. Today, I ride a state-of-the-art, 16-1/2 pound, 56 cm race bike that has been exhaustively fitted to my 6′ frame, complete with light racing wheels (1,456 grams). I had also finally put in enough time in the saddle to notice the initial pound and a half difference – and the next pound drop when I upgraded the wheels was huge… I’ve got several thousand miles on the race bike, with the current setup and have well over 17,000 miles under my belt at an average speed that most people wouldn’t hope to hit for more than a few miles. Climbing hills on my Specialized Venge, as a simple avid cyclist, I can shred all but the best mountain goats and racers. My point here is not to gloat – that would be silly and pointless because I know a literal ton of people who are much faster than I am, but to illustrate that I take cycling at a high level seriously. I like to be fit and fast, I love to pass people on time trial bikes and I put in some serious miles. Not to impress anyone but because it puts a smile on my face… And it matters in the context of bike weight for this post.

I recently had my rear wheel re-strung because after a year of hard riding and crossing railroad tracks – the spokes had loosened up to a point where it was hard to keep it trued. When I took my rear wheel to the shop, I swapped the cassette for the original rear wheel that came with the bike so I could continue to ride my race bike. That old wheel is almost 3/4’s of a pound heavier than the new wheel and I guarantee you, I could feel the extra weight with every pedal stroke and every little ascent up a tiny roller.  Just going from 16-1/2 pounds to 17-1/4 changed how my bike felt and handled.  This is the context where the weight of the bike does matter.

Now, would the extra weight have mattered at the club ride on Tuesday night?  Not even a little bit – I’d fare no worse had I not gotten the wheel back before the next ride and given a few weeks, I’d have gotten used to the additional weight, without question.  Where it would have mattered was on my two-day 150 mile rides last weekend.  It would also have made a difference in the mountains… Again, though, given the proper time to acclimatize, I’d have been fine.

The point is, to a large extent, it’s been my experience that the two-pound weight difference between a $1,500 aluminum road bike and a $4,000 composite race bike is negligible unless you’ve put in a lot of miles riding a lighter bike (in other words, going from a light bike to a heavier bike is a bigger deal than going from a heavier bike to a lighter bike) – with one exception:  Climbing.  Climbing a decent hill on a light bike, even a pound lighter than what you’re used to, is a pretty big deal.  So, while the fact does remain that whether you’re riding an entry-level aluminum road bike or a super-steed, you’re willingness to ride fast vastly trumps the super-steed every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Of course, once you get to that level, you’d better believe a lighter bike is vastly superior to a heavier one.  Get it?

So, to tidy this up with a nice little bow, with added experience comes the ability to “feel” minimal changes in a bike’s setup as well as smaller changes in a bikes weight.  By the time I finally bought my Venge, I could feel the difference between 17-1/2 pounds and 16-1/2 pounds…  After riding that bike for almost a full year now with the same setup, I could feel a huge difference just by adding 3/4’s of a pound simply by switching a rear wheel.  This after not being able to “feel” a two-pound difference in switching from my Cannondale to the 5200 after my first full year of cycling.  In other words, the more time I’ve put in on a bike, the more in-tune I’ve gotten with how bike weight matters.  When you’re only talking about a pound or three, especially when you’re first getting into cycling, the weight of the bike doesn’t matter much at all – your effort does.  If you choose to progress in the sport, especially if you find that climbing is your thing, you’ll be able to feel a pound’s difference.  Two pounds will be a big deal and three pounds less will be huge – assuming, of course, you’ve already achieved your ideal cycling weight.  Taking weight off of you is obviously cheaper and more beneficial than taking it off of the bike.

Priceless Cyclist Quote Found on a Message Board…

I found this quote on a message board just now and it had me laughing out loud:

 

Quote Originally Posted by thump55 View Post

I use the elbow flick to let my wife know it’s time for her to make me a sammich.
Technically, he misspelled sammich, so I added the extra “m” for him.  Still, dude that’s funny.
Alas, I doubt I’ll try that with my wife – I enjoy sex.

The Question: Do You Want to Get Better or Not?

I consider myself a very blessed man because I was able to embrace recovery from alcoholism while I was still incredibly young. Notice I did not use the words “lucky or fortunate”. I was probably a little bit of both of those as well – let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of recovering folk who can quit at 22 and make it beyond twenty years without looking back or turning back to getting drunk.  The good part of this story is that twenty years of making good decisions, opposed to the opposite had I continued drinking (and assuming that I didn’t die in that process – which was far more likely), is that I have become a contributing member of society – a good guy.

Now, I could have, and prior to my decision to recover – did, use excuses to stay drunk.  After all, unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that alcoholism is, in part, genetic.  Drinking to oblivion is what drunks do.  I could hardly be blamed for acting on my genetic makeup, could I?  Worse still, it’s also well-known that an alcoholic’s brain reacts to the induction of alcohol to the system differently.  Put simply, when a normal person gets a little tipsy their brain says it’s time to quit – mine says, “that’s good and if some is good, more is better”.  How could I possibly be expected fight what my brain makes me do?  I could fill up an entire post with why I was meant to be relegated to the gutter, under the “care” of the government, sucking social security when I was perfectly capable of a good life.

There is a better way…

The toughest question I’ve ever had to answer was, “Do I want to get better, or not?”  Recovering was a choice that, in my case at least, required a little intervention from God.  At the last floor of my “bottom”, laying on the top bunk at a treatment center, in the middle of full-blown DT’s (Delirium Tremens), I asked God for a deal.  I’d give everything I had to quitting if he’d help me by taking away my obsession.  You see, with an alcoholic, as with most activities indulged in that are detrimental to society, it’s not the caboose that killed me, it was the freaking engine.  The second that alcohol passed my lips I was doomed, I had absolutely no control over what happened next.  The first thing that had to change was that first drink, it had to go.  This worked for about a year and I was fantastically happy, but things changed.  Simply not drinking was no longer “enough”.  What most “normal” people don’t know, but all recovering alcoholics come to understand, drinking – or to cast a broader net, activity that has a negative impact on one’s life or on society as a whole, was only a symptom of a much larger problem.  Rather than get to what that larger problem was (look at my recovery page, I go into great detail over a dozen or so posts describing the larger problem over about 10,000-15,000 words), I’ll keep it simple and just say that the larger problem, what goes on in my melon, had to be fixed.  In short, not only did I have to quit drinking, I had to change everything that made up who I am, including how I thought.  Think about that for just a second…  I had to change how I thought.  Over the next four to ten years I had to change how my mind took in and processed information.  I had to change how my brain worked.

Unfortunately, changing how the brain works, how it processes stimuli, is not easy.  It takes a ton of practice.  A rollercoaster is the perfect metaphor – the Blue Streak at Cedar Point would be a great one.  Mentally, you go up really slow, then you shoot down the first hill.  You spend a short time at the bottom before turning skyward again, then up and down, up and down, a quick turn and then several rollers…  The desire is, through working a series of steps and attempting to simply “do the next right thing at any given moment”, to change the rollercoaster.  I sought to stretch the ride out so the highs weren’t so high and the lows weren’t so low.  I sought and attained a more relaxed and balanced ride through life.

Now, here’s where this gets hard…  Recovering from alcoholism, even though it is partially a mental and genetic disease is a choice that requires a few things.  Arguably most important is rigorous honesty.  We all know what honesty is, but the adjective is everything:  The definition of rigorous is; “extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate”.  In simple words, I had to check my bullshit at the door.  Amongst this checked “bullshit” were the excuses and the notion that I was special or different.  Excuses are the lies I tell myself and others so that I can stay sick, so I can stay drunk.  I am just like any other drunk that walked through the door that separates bondage from freedom.  My story is no more (or less) salacious than any other drunk’s.  I had to accept that what happened to me was no worse or no better, that my story was no better or worse than anyone else’s.  I also had to come to grips with the truth:  That I was worth saving and that I could be saved, even if I didn’t know why (though that has become apparent many times over since those first few years).

To borrow a quote, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path [ED. I’ve never seen one, ever].  Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.  There are such unfortunates.  They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way.  They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.  Their chances are less than average [ED. Remember, average is rarely have we seen a person fail…].  There are those too who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (the Big Book, page 58)

Though that quote was designed for alcoholics and those about to recover from alcoholism (and arguably those who continue to recover or have recovered), it works for anything that ails a person – if that person can be honest.

This is not an easy path to walk.  Honesty is tricky, but in the end, those who seek to manipulate honesty for their own benefit are only hurting themselves.  So the question I pose to those who may have something to recover from, whether it be something, anything from alcoholism to low self-esteem:  Do you want to get better, or not?

Just remember, honesty is the best policy.