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Monthly Archives: November 2014

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: Cranks : Giving

If you’re a fan of CultFit as I am, check out the link at the bottom for his tee shirt, it’s excellent… I reserved mine.

CultFit

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving-

Please join me tomorrow – November 22nd – at 11a.m. @ Omaha Bike Co. for Cranksgiving!!! What in the world is Cranksgiving?!? Its one part bike ride, part scavenger hunt, and most importantly – part food drive. You’ll need to dust off your bike, gather up a few bags, a bike lock and about $15-$20 to buy the food, which in turn goes to the Food Bank for the Heartland. A classic win-win situation if you ask me!

Not in our fair city, Omaha, Nebraska this Saturday?!? No problem! There may be a Cranksgiving in your neck of the woods! 

Come on out and remember – First cup of coffee – tea – whatever is on me!

Daily Meditation:

Just in time for the Holidays – Limited Edition :CultFit: Holiday Tops!

These shirts are pretty cool and will come in handy…

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Sometimes I Get a Little Jealous…

I read quite a few cycling blogs written by people who cycle in some beautiful places and while I do get to take some pretty great vacations in which I get plenty of time to ride, the roads I travel on a regular basis can’t be described as anything more than boring.  It’s pretty much corn fields and the occasional town.  There are no grand wharfs or cityscapes, no mountains in the distance…

A perfect example of one of the nicer places I’m talking about can be found at PedalWORKS.  On one hand, I can’t help but think riding around in that setting would be awesome…  Enough that every now and again I am a little bit envious.  How cool would it be to head out the driveway to hit the Smokey Mountains for a daily training ride?  How awesome would it be to ride regularly in a city like Vancouver (or even Grand Rapids for that matter)?

Well, this is about as good as it gets where I ride…

IMG_5329IMG_5058

There is another side to the equation though, a trade-off.  On the other hand, where I ride there isn’t a lot of traffic.  We can crank out any one of dozens of 50 to 80 mile routes on a Sunday morning and only see a dozen or two cars the whole time and they rarely have to wait to pass.  It’s not perfect of course, we’re still dealing with traffic on traffic’s terms, but if you have to be on the road (and I most definitely do), I do consider myself quite lucky in that regard.

Another bummer about southeastern Michigan is that it’s flat.  We’ve got a few 100 mile routes with a cumulative elevation gain below 2,000 feet (700 meters).  For someone who likes to climb it’s almost depressing.  I have to ride 20 miles just to get to a decent grade that takes more than a minute to climb – and that’s still just a hill.

In the end, my thoughts on where I ride being inadequate are rare and fleeting.  It stings for a second and then I remember that it could be worse, at least I can ride.  In the end, at least for me, I keep from getting bored by concentrating on the workout or the people I ride with rather than the scenery.  The truth is, my hometown has pluses and minuses when it comes to cycling as I’m sure most places do.  As with so many things in life, if I want to focus on what I don’t have I can be bored and dissatisfied.  Or I can focus on what is good about where I ride and save the scenery for vacations, where I can enjoy it a little bit more.

How I changed my entire outlook on life, in one easy step… What I Can Give, Not What I Get

An ether friend of mine wrote a post the other day that garnered a lengthy comment or three and the comment I left, expanded, led to this post.   Now, that post and my comment only got the cogs moving…that’s where it ends.  For this post I’m going a little bit deeper with the topic.  The simple truth is what I’m going to describe might be a little tough to grasp for normal folk… For people suffering delusions of grandeur, this should be earth-shattering because  most people simply don’t look at life this way…  Choosing to implement this in one’s life will mean a radical departure from normalcy…

I am, well technically “was” (Can one truly be cured of this? The jury is out), an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. Now, aside from that being a fantastically humorous one-liner, this statement requires one know exactly what this means if one is to understand and identify with the rest of the post:

Egomaniac:

e·go·ma·ni·a (g-mn-, -mny, g-)
n.
Obsessive preoccupation with the self.
ego·mani·ac (-n-k) n.
ego·ma·nia·cal (-m-n-kl) adj.
ego·ma·nia·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Now inferiority complex:

inferiority complex
n.
A persistent sense of inadequacy or a tendency to self-diminishment, sometimes resulting in excessive aggressiveness through overcompensation.

Same source

So, an obsession with self combined with a persistent sense of inadequacy… That describes me before I sobered up and about two years after. What this means in normal everyday English is quite simple: I was preoccupied with me. I was always more concerned about myself, what I wanted, what I would get, my feelings, my concerns, me, me, me, me, me…and add to that the caveat, I knew I wasn’t worth much and I was a trainwreck.

Without giving too many words to the problem, one of the chief tenets of living a life in recovery is helping others to recover from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (Big Book of AA). We get out of ourselves and concentrate on helping others to recover. There are varying degrees of this, of course, but I happen take this part of recovery very seriously. AA or not, sharing my experience with others that they may recover as well is just as important to my own recovery as not picking up that first drink.

With that said, here’s my trick to ending the self-seeking obsession: I learned to stop looking at what I could get out of life and look at what I could contribute instead.

I told you, it’s radical and I’ll guarantee you, it isn’t easy (the fact that there’s only one step to this makes it easy…remembering to do it on a consistent basis, well not so much).  All too often we’re wired to look out for number one first.  After all, if we don’t look out for ourselves, who will, right?  Looking out for one’s interests is not a bad thing, doing so to the detriment of ourselves or others is.  In other words, there must be balance.  Don’t take my word for it either, give it a try.  Next time you have a chance, be it at a party, a business meeting, hanging out with your spouse or significant other…  Instead of looking for what you’ll get out of that interaction, look at what you can contribute.

Done on a consistent basis, this will change your life.

Fair warning though…  Self-pity hates this way of living.  They would list this as a cure for depression but you can’t put that in a pill.

 

How I Chose the Proper Road Bike Size: A Noob’s Guide to Speed and Comfort (or both if you’re lucky)

The knee-jerk reaction when looking into buying your first road bike might be to hit the Google app where you’ll end up at the Bike Frame Size Calculator.  You’ll put in your height (6′), then stick a book in between your legs, tight against your crotch and measure from the floor to the spine and type in that measurement (34″).  You’ll then be redirected to a new page that will give you your “ideal” frame size (59 cm or 23″ in my case).  You’ll also be given your ideal crank arm length (mine shows 175 but that’s not correct, it’s 172.5 – we’ll get to that in a bit).  In addition, you’ll also be given several other sizes to consider (57-61 cm in my case).  Easy as pie, right?  Not quite.

You’ll also have to deal with a lot of internet/pro chatter about buying a smaller bike.  For instance, Mark Cavendish is 5’8″ tall which should mean a 54 cm frame for him but he rides either a 52 cm or 49 cm Venge depending on his mood.  You’ll no doubt read about many other pros who ride bikes several sizes smaller than their height would suggest is plausible (according to the calculator).  Look at Jen’s Voigt as well (click on “Specifications”).  He’s 6’3″ tall and rides a 60 cm Madone 7 Series.  According to the calculator he should be on a 62 cm frame.  Now for my Venge…  It’s a 56 cm frame but we were looking at a 54 initially because I made it known that I wanted as much speed as possible…  It was my choice to go with the 56 – I split the difference between the right sized 58 and the smaller 54.
IMG_5168 IMG_4999

The first thing you should know about the bike size calculator is that it’s a guide.

The trick with picking the right frame size is choosing between comfort (larger frame) and speed (smaller) or if you’re lucky, you’ll get both as I did.  The smaller frame size gets your butt up in the air and your hands down low so the cyclist can cut into the wind with his or her head and shoulders, not their chest.  In other words, the smaller frames are all about aerodynamics.  Now, many in the industry claim that riding like that is less comfortable but I haven’t found that to be the case.  Conversely, having ridden both upright and as shown above, I am infinitely more comfortable riding low.

We’re not quite out of the woods yet though.  A smaller frame should mean better handling as well, that is cornering and climbing.  The larger bike should descend better because it’ll be what is described as a little less “twitchy“.

All of that taken into account, when picking a road bike a choice must be made:  Stick with the proper size and ride a little more upright and comfortably or go low with a smaller frame and for aerodynamics and responsiveness.  Or go for both.  Just know this up front, if you do go small, there’s a very likely chance that you’ll need a longer stem to make the cockpit reach work.  The frame style will matter as well.  It’s quite easy to tell the two main types apart (there are several, but let’s keep this as simple as possible), you’ve got the traditional which is signified by a top tube that is parallel to the ground and a compact frame which has a sloped top tube:
IMG_5364
Traditional
IMG_5168
Compact

It is my understanding that choosing the traditional frame limits the size selection quite a bit because the geometry is different (this is according to the owner of my local shop who has decades of experience in frame building, including a 24 hour world record bike).  The compact frames are favored by manufacturers because they don’t need so many frame sizes but they also work to the cyclist’s advantage.  For instance, I actually have a 54 cm traditional frame bike (see my bike page, scroll to the bottom) that happens way too small to ride comfortably at my height, yet we were seriously considering a 54 cm Venge which would have been seriously aerodynamic but would have limited me in my later years when I’m a little less flexible…  In the end, I went with a 56 because I was thinking of my later years.  I’m flexible enough now that I can have a fairly aggressive position on my bike (almost as much as Cav but not Jens).  It also helps that when my shop built my bike they left quite a bit of room for spacers.  Right now it looks a little off-putting having two large spacers stacked on top of my stem, but fifteen years from now when I’m not so concerned with speed I’ll be able to raise the stem up to account for a little bit of decreased flexibility.

So, I’m 777 words into this post, quite a few for what should be something fairly simple…  You’re “this” tall and you have “this” amount of reach, you get “this” size frame.  Right?  Well yes, but there’s a bit more to it depending on how far you want to go.  When I got into cycling, I did like most noobs do:  I found a bike I wanted and I bought it before thinking it through.  Then I had to buy another bike that fit me.  The Venge, my third road bike was the first one that I really paid attention to what I’d need, not only right now but in the future as well.

The setup on my traditional 58 cm Trek and 56 cm Venge are almost identical but the simple truth is, the Venge is a lot more comfortable because it’s just a bit smaller and it fits how I want to ride perfectly.  In my case, where I spend between five and six thousand miles a year worth of time on the saddle, it made a lot of sense to pay close attention to what I want.  After all, that works out to about 330 hours give or take, we’re not talking about a couple of rides up to the market once a week.  Where this gets difficult is knowing what you want before you lay down the cash.  Having had a bike that was too small, one that was the correct size by the book and one that is slightly smaller, I’ll be erring to the smaller side from now on because smaller suits my riding style and small is a little more versatile.

UPDATE: My word, all that and I forgot about crank arm length… The calculator said I should be rolling with a 175 mm crank arm length but my in-shop fitting clearly showed 172.5. I tried a number of scenarios on the calculator to make a 172.5 show up but nothing worked, it popped out either 170 or 175… Again, the calculator is a guide, not the law. Use it at your own risk.

Recovery and my key to happiness: Fitness. 22 Years Sober, 8,036 days…

Today I celebrate 22 years without a drop. 8,036 days. 192,864 hours. 11,571,840 minutes. 694,310,400 seconds.

This has been a truly excellent year for me though it’s had its stress and has been anything but easy… I don’t think it’s supposed to be though. In fact, easy and stress-free were never promised when I sobered up. Growing is never easy or pain-free and this has been a huge year of growth. Taking risks, locking horns with challenges, working toward being a better husband and father, the career(s) and trying to pass on my experience, strength and hope to other drunks that it may help them to recover too… Point is, when I was young (and arguably stupid) I thought “making it” would mean a carefree life of fun and happiness – a perpetual vacation in other words.

I haven’t gotten the balance down perfectly yet because I’ve gone too far the other way and spend a good deal of what little vacation I do take working, but I’m getting there.

In the end, the important thing is that I am free from mood or mind altering drugs and that gives me the chance to seek out my happiness. Without sobriety, I’ve proven time and time again, I’m pretty much useless.

I was promised that if I just stayed sober, kept coming back and kept my life clean, my life would become so good I would get to a point where I thought it was so fantastic I would think it couldn’t get any better. I’ve been there dozens of times. Each time I’ve kept on the path, continued to come back, continued to live the clean and sober life… And each and every time I thought I was at the top of my mountain, that it couldn’t possibly get better, it has.

For that, I am grateful. Life sober is good.

One of the greatest factors contributing to my overall happiness and enjoyment of sober life has been maintaining a decent level of fitness (in the first couple of years, then in the last three, I could rewrite that, “exceptional level of fitness”).  Fitness has helped me navigate through almost every stage of my recovery, in fact I’ve been into some form of physical activity all but five years of the twenty-two I’ve been sober.  I can say with certainty, those five years were the hardest.  Hindsight is what it is but looking back those five stick out like a sore thumb.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say fitness is more important to the recovering than for normal folk but I can explain why it is so important to me.  First, and starting with the simple, alcohol was my escape.  Fitness, or training, was the positive answer to the destructive nature of pouring my life down the drain for a drink (or several, as the case was).  For an hour a day, or even three or four on weekend days, I didn’t have to fret about what I had left to do to get my life back in order.  I didn’t have to worry about making amends for being a loser.  All I had to do was get my but outside and move it…  There has always been one major difference between drowning my troubles and working out at them though:  I wasn’t willing to piss away what was good in my life to overdo it.  Fitness was my anti-alcohol.  Fitness didn’t get in the way of going to work, it made work bearable.  Fitness didn’t have me throwing away everything that was good in my life, it added to its greatness.  Unlike alcohol, fitness made my life better.

With that, you can be assured, I’ll keep coming back.

Note to Self: Only Eat Big AFTER the Big Ride

Sunday was all planned out on Saturday morning…  It was going to be cold but Mike and I were going to hammer out 30 or 40 miles “no matter how much we had to put on to stay warm”…  Perfect.  Misery loves company.  I’d also put in 45 minutes on the trainer on Friday and went out for an hour on Saturday.  It was going to be a good weekend.

Saturday night was a celebration party for my buddy English Pete.  English Pete finally bit the bullet and became American Pete (though let’s face it, he’ll still be English Pete) so his wife pulled out all of the stops and put together a dinner in his honor.  Thankfully they didn’t pull out the spotted dick but stuck with a fantastic American dinner instead: Burgers, pulled pork, cole slaw and potatoes and good old apple pie for desert.

Now, for those who don’t know, what you do with the pulled pork and coleslaw is put it on top of the cheeseburger with a bit of ketchup and mayo.  For the potatoes, cut them into wedges, drizzle with oil, shake on some seasoning salts and bake them till browned.  My wife made the apple pie.  You can count on one hand the ingredients and it was still hot when we broke into it after dinner.

Unfortunately for me, the burgers were just a little bit too good.  I didn’t have one, I had two and they were big enough that I had a tough time opening my mouth wide enough to fit the burger in.  I did manage to stay quite small with the apple pie and homemade ice cream though.  I guess that’s saying something.  No big deal though, right?  I was going to ride it off on Sunday anyway.

I woke up Sunday to snow and ice covering the roads and a fair bit of flurries.  Way too treacherous to ride on.  Mike called at 9:20 to let me know that he was bailing on the ride (rightly so).  To compensate, diet wise, I had a decent (if small) breakfast and skipped lunch then stuck with a reasonable dinner (fettuccini alfredo with chicken and a small salad) before heading out to the bowling alley.

As far as bowling went, I ended up pretty happy that I skipped the ride as, for once, I had plenty of energy left for the third game.  We took all seven points available so we’ll likely move up another spot in two weeks (we are currently in fifth of something like 18 teams).  That said, I did make a bit of a silly mistake…  In-season I can pretty much count on the weather as long as I’m not looking too far out.  I don’t have to worry about waking up to conditions that are going to keep me off the bike so I don’t have to worry about eating a few hundred calories too many the night before.  Off-season, especially when there’s even a small chance of snow, I’ve gotta keep the big meals reserved for after the ride.

Oh well, if there was nothing to work on, wouldn’t life be boring?  Indeed it would.

For the Love of the Ride: It Feels Like 26…

There are three parts to this next statement: I hate cycling in the cold.

First, I don’t like the fact that wearing enough clothes to stay comfortable slows me down.

Second, I hate that if I rode faster, I’d be warmer but I’d end up sweating which leaks body heat. Layering properly helps but even that isn’t perfect.

Third, if there’s no snow on the ground, I hate cycling in the cold just a little bit less than I hate riding on the God forsaken trainer.

With that in mind, I went out for a little ride today, just sixteen miles but it was, well not too sucky. In fact, with the exception of the last four miles (into the wind), it was really quite not horrible. At least the sun was out every now and again. The temp was right at freezing but with the wind that “feels like” 26. Unfortunately at 18-20 mph it was chilly baby.

Of course, chilly is way better than the training wheels and it sure beats getting fat.