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Fit Recovery on Being Content Vs. Settling

Contemplate, for a moment, going into the new year the difference between being content and settling.

Contentment is simply being happy with one’s place on this rock, and not in a capacity whereby we are fertilizing the grass.  Contentment is the goal even though the end zone is constantly changing.

Settling is acceptance on a lower level.  Settling is hoping for contentment. Settling is lazy and afraid.

My wife and I tackled some exceptionally difficult marriage issues yesterday.  No trouble between the two of us but the issues could become problems without some intensive communication.  I had some bad dreams last night as a result and I normally don’t even remember my dreams.  They were so intense that I chose to wake up at 3 this morning rather than risk more unsettled dreams.  I know when this happens things are not okay with me.

Settling would be trying to brush that under the rug, hoping it would go away while the path to contentment is handling those issues head on.  Today, while getting ready to take the kids to swim practice I asked my wife if we could set aside some time to pray together later this afternoon.  She agreed and we are both looking forward to healing together so we can get back on the right path, to work through this together and grow from what could have been an otherwise ugly situation left unchecked.

This isn’t a New Year thing.  This is a Thursday thing.

Fear hates the light of day.  Fear needs dark to fester.  Fear needs shadows. 

Given the shadows in our mind, fear can grow to consume everything that is good to a point where it creates it’s own shadows.  For my wife and I, prayer is a 2 Billion Lumen cleansing spotlight that allows no room for fear to hide.

In the scheme of things, what we’re dealing with is small.  It could be looked at as not even worthy if not for the knowledge that it’s the small things that are swept under the rug that eventually turn into mounds big enough to trip us when we aren’t paying attention.  Better to drag out the spotlight and grow closer for the effort than risk tripping later on.

Being content is impossible in the presence of land mines.  Settling ensures that we would spend our waking hours tap dancing around them in the hope we don’t fall.  Content is dancing freely, looking each other in the eyes and getting lost in the joy of the embrace.

Just a thought on an otherwise good day.  Choose wisely and never settle, my friends.

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Fit Recovery: 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 130,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Magical, Mystical Fountain of Youth is Simply Clean Living: To Thine Own Self Be True.

This post is going to be frank.  I’m not going to tiptoe around issues and I’m certainly not going to attempt to sugarcoat shit, hoping to make it more palatable for those who look at finding offense as a sport.  I also won’t be offensive for the sake of shock either, which I find equally distasteful.

With recovery from alcoholism and/or drug addiction comes the ability to observe the destruction it causes at arm’s length while we try to help the afflicted recover.  It’s like watching a train wreck or a tornado.  You can see it coming a mile away but there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it but try to fix the wreckage once it’s gone by.  In terms of working with alcoholics, this is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a curse because it’s ugly.  It’s a blessing because when we take the knowledge of that ugliness and use it to better ourselves, our lives become better for avoiding the wreck in the first place (or choosing a home outside of tornado alley).

While good genes don’t hurt, the key to remaining young, both at heart and in appearance, as old-fashioned as it may seem, is simple good, clean living.  As my hair grays, I get older and I continue to stay sober and fit, I strive only to do the next right thing.  Whether it’s diet, exercise or doing what I must to live another day sober, it’s a one day at a time enterprise.

We learn, very early in sobriety, how to look at life one day at a time.  The reason for this is simple.  When we finally hit bottom (and “hit[ting] bottom” is an apt description) our lives are a mess.  We’ve pissed off anyone who matters to us and a veritable trail-load of people who don’t.  We immediately set upon a course of action that will clean up that wreckage.  At first this is a daunting task, it often seems like an insurmountable pile of shit that we have to shovel away.  To keep this simple, if we look at the whole pile all at once we often become disheartened which can easily lead to a relapse in our fragile state.  If, on the other hand, we look at just doing the next right thing at any given moment, we find that the pile diminishes before we even know what’s happened.  If we continue on this path, eventually life becomes so good we simply can’t understand how it happened.  This isn’t a hypothesis, it isn’t chance, it’s a promise.  It’s not easy of course, but if we work for it, miracles happen.

So, while the rest of the internet is toiling away looking for the next “raw, organic superfood” to get behind, I’m eating what I’ve always enjoyed, getting my daily exercise and living a good, wonderful, enjoyable life.  Of course, it isn’t easy by any stretch, but “ease” is not a prerequisite of “good” when it comes to an enjoyable life.

  1.  Avoid the fracasDo the Next Right Thing at Any Given Moment.  One thing that is certain about human nature is that we, as a whole, don’t like others to be happier than we are.  We see friends figuratively stabbing each other in the back, dishonesty and general nastiness.  This plays upon both fear and insecurities.  On the other hand, if our lives are lived doing the next right thing at any given moment, our side of the proverbial street is clean so we simply don’t have to participate in that mess because we already know we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.
  2. Eat Well and Enjoy Your Food.  Moderate portions of food, good balanced meals and limited “snacks” are keys to living a fit, happy life.  Try any diet you like, do whatever works to get your BMI down to a level you can be excited about.  Once you’re there, eat well without overeating.  If you can’t moderate your intake, desperate times, desperate measures.  Don’t expect that one day you’ll be able to eat like other people, accept that you cannot.  We all have hurdles in life, this one just happens to suck.  On the other hand, I can’t have a beer any time the mood strikes me (mainly because the mood strikes me a lot.  It is what it is, I don’t spend my life crying over a glass of red wine.  I can’t drink it or I create a shambles in a matter of a few weeks.
  3. To thine own self be true.  One of the major keys to my happiness is that I understand one simple concept:  Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.  This cuts two ways, bad and good.  The one opinion of me that does matter is mine.  I know where my heart is and I surely know what’s in it.  As long as I can honestly say that what’s in there is good, if someone else finds me disagreeable in some way, that’s on them.  The problem, of course, occurs when what’s in there isn’t good.  Honestly assessing myself and what I do is a constant, ongoing practice.  I succeed and fail on a daily basis so it’s incredibly important to my happiness to stay on top of things – and if I do fail to find a weakness over a period of time, once I do realize an inequity, I must get on with correcting it now rather than wait on it.
  4. Get Out and Move.  Every day.  Period, end of story.  No phoning it in (see item 3).  Exercise is almost as important as my sobriety.  I want to be active when I’m 80 (hell, I want to make it to 80) so there’s no time like the present to make sure I can get there (see item 1).

Wow, this post ended up being a little more than I anticipated when I came up with the title.  In any event, all too often I used to look for the easier, softer way to get through life.  I did this because I wasn’t able to see (with those young eyes) the benefits associated with good old-fashioned clean living.  Let’s face it, being good doesn’t seem like it would be easy…

Imagine my surprise when I found out the easiest, softest way to being happy was to simply live well.

 

A Christmas Epiphany

Merry Christmas my friends!!!

I was thanking Jesus and God for the awesomeness has become my life.  Then I asked for the strength to do good and the next right thing at any given moment…  Then I asked for Peace.  Not peace in my life, big Peace.  Democrats and Republicans Peace.

And that’s when it hit me….

Praying for peace is a lot like like praying for patience. 

For those who have no idea what that last sentence meant or missed what I was getting at, you don’t ever pray for patience.  God doesn’t grant anyone patience, He grants the opportunity to practice it.

That’s not all bad if you’re a glutton for punishment, get it?

I realized that Peace is a lot like patience.  This has always bugged me about praying for peace… it’s like a shortcut.  It’s trying to get something for nothing.

Allow me to explain.  Peace requires the participation of a minimum of two parties.  I can want peace and I can pray for it till I’m blue in the face but if you don’t want it, there most certainly will not be peace. 

This reality doesn’t rule out the fact that God is everything or God is nothing and a change of heart is possible but free will is a bitch.

However, and this is what I’m really getting at here, what if praying for peace was exactly like praying for patience?  What of God gives us the opportunity to practice it rather than granting it straight up?

What must I do to practice peace?  I must accept someone else’s point of view, even if that point of view is based on faulty information.  Better still, and far more important to peace, if I want it, I have to be willing to work on the splinter in my eye rather than the splinter in yours.  The best I can do is hope you work on yours.  This is where it gets tricky though… I also have to be willing to let you be you, no matter how weird I may think that is. And therein lies the rub.

The point of this post is simple:  Praying for Peace is great.  Better is to pray for the strength to practice what will bring it about.

Ride hard my friends.  I know I will, in about 2-1/2 hours.  WOOHOO!

Merry Christmas!

Cycling, the Crankset of Youth…

How Healthy is Exercise for Seniors? – Tufts – http://wp.me/pQbcn-4JO

A resounding confirmation of exactly what you would expect.

What Are the Best Bike Ride Distances?

What is the ideal length for a bike ride?

Through four years, almost five, of avid cycling, I’ve come to appreciate several different distances varying in length depending the season (as in Spring, Summer and Fall) and days of the week. First though, before I get into this, I ride every day. No days off, unless it rains. I just went three months on two day’s rest, ending on the last day of September.  If I had my way, someone would decide out of the blue to give me $50,000,000 so I could retire early and just have fun riding my bike.  Unfortunately the tooth fairy only exists in Rise of the Guardians.

For the Road

I am and unapologetic roadie so I’m starting with that.  Due to work, I’m limited for time throughout the week so I’ve settled in on two sixteen mile routes that take anywhere between 47 and 59 minutes depending on how slow I need to go on a particular day.  For instance, the day after my club ride I’m definitely going to push the hour mark while the day after that, I’ll push for closer to 50 minutes.
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On Tuesday evenings though, we’ve got our club ride which is 30 miles with another seven or eight thrown on for a warm up…  The 30 miles takes us between 1h:18 and 1h:22 and has become my favorite “give it everything I’ve got” distance.  An hour-twenty is a great time limit for hitting it hard – not too long and definitely not too short.  We average about 22 mph over the entire ride but when you factor in traffic and stop signs, we actually have to ride between 24 and 28 mph to hit the mark.
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So, for me, that covers the normal weekdays and “fit a workout in after work” time, but then I’ve got the weekends and special occasions…  Ah, the glorious weekends.  My favorite distance for a weekend ride is between 60 and 75 miles, or three to four hours (plus fifteen minutes for a stop or two).  I still keep a warm place in my heart for the centuries, the hundred miler’s, but I actually prefer the 100k (62.5 miles) rides most.  60 miles is fantastic because it really kicks in the calorie burn but it’s short enough that you’re not smoked for the rest of the day while the 100 miler’s always hurt just a little bit by the time I’m done.  My friend Matt puts it best:  With 60-75 miles you really felt like you did something but it doesn’t suck up half of the day.
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Playing in the Dirt

Dirt road rides, while often messy, are a great way to cut down on messing with traffic.  They’re peaceful, enjoyable and because you’d have to have your head examined to ride my road bike on a dirt road, you’re going to be opting for a mountain bike.  These rides are generally quite a bit shorter even if the duration is the same – simply put, mountain bikes are slower.  I like between 25 and 35 miles on the mountain bike.

REALLY Playing in the Dirt

If dirt road rides are slow, trails are really slow.  They’re also a lot of fun.  I figure I’m doing pretty good if I can keep a 13 mph average pace on a single track trail I’m doing pretty good…  Of course, the pros are averaging 20 mph but attempting speed like that would likely result in an unfortunate and painful crash.

In the end, like many other cyclists, I find its more about the time on the bike than the distance covered.  Typically, for a longer ride I’m going for three or four hours.  On the weekdays, when we’re all pressed for time, my cycling is more about getting out for long enough to put a smile on my face.  For that I need a minimum of 45 minutes.  Any less and I’m bummed on the home-stretch that it’s over.  On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many hours I spent on the bike this year.  In four years I’ve never once looked at duration but I know exactly how many miles I’ve ridden this year:

7,533 – and counting…

As a rule, I don’t like the idea of laying down rules for others.  Of course, if we have goals concerning weight loss, say we want to lose 30 pounds in a season and we’re going to attain that by heading out for a 30 minute ride on our leisure bike every night it’s quite clear that the effort isn’t in line with the goal without major dietary changes.  If your effort and goals don’t work together, you end up with disappointment and anxiety – I never miss an opportunity to help with perspective.

The simplest way I know to put it is like this: I started out at 15 minutes, going as fast as I could. Then I added more time and distance and I kept adding until I couldn’t keep wait on and I got to a point where I needed to ride more than I needed a bunch of junk food. For me, that was 150 miles a week (50 minutes a day during the week and 3 each on Saturday and Sunday with a day or two off).

The best distance for a bike ride is whatever you have time for. Just know, nobody ever lost 40 pounds in a season by phoning it in. Big miles burns big weight.

Ride hard my friends.

Cycling as a Social Activity: Stories, Strength and Sidesplitting Laughter

Running can be a social activity, if you’re willing to run at someone else’s pace but in my experience, running too slow hurts more than running too fast.  Swimming, forget about it.  Cycling on the other hand, is the quintessential social fitness activity.  You could argue a spin class or the tread mill, but I never got any joy resembling a mouse on a wheel in a cage… not when you consider the scenery available on even a lackluster ride, in comparison.

For a couple of years, before I knew any better, I was a solo cyclist. I would head out the door when I had the time and keep my own pace and I was happy.

In my second season of cycling I was invited to ride with the fast folks on Tuesday night and that became a regular ride for me. While I did meet a few guys out there, the ride was so fast it was tough to be social… it was mostly just trying to hold on to the group.

Then a pattern emerged between several of us last year. Four to six of us would end up dropping within a mile or two of each other so rather than ride the rest of the route alone, we decided to meet up at the 20 mile mark so we could ride the last ten back as our own pack. We came together, a few of us, and grew as friends… Matt, Mike, Phill, Brad, Chuck and me. We all ride about the same pace.

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All of a sudden we started riding together at organized rides. Centuries, metric centuries, and every weekend that we’re not riding organized rides we’re out for long training rides together. Then came road trips and weekend long camping for supported rides.

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This past season my wife joined our little rabble for one of the weekend rides, some Tuesday evening rides, and with me most weekdays:

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At first, I had to ride a little slower than normal but as my wife got stronger and more confident, our pace picked up to a point where my wife can hurt me if I’m not careful.

Cycling hasn’t been the same since. It’s been better, more enjoyable, to share the ride with friends (especially my wife).  I have come to find that I enjoy cycling much more with friends. The good times, laughs and meals eaten together make the work worth it. And enjoyable.

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I used to be under the mistaken impression that I was destined to be a solo cyclist, that getting faster was too important to ride with anyone else and if I rode with someone slower, that would mess with getting faster. It made sense at the time but once I found out how much fun riding with friends was, I gave up on worrying about everything else (my fear wasn’t necessarily true either – as long as I have a couple of really hard days a week, I get faster).  I worried at first, of course, that I wouldn’t be fast enough for the group or that I wouldn’t find a decent gaggle to ride with or that I would end up in situations where I was tempted to drink with my new friends.  In the end, once I let go of my fears, I ended up with a group of guys who don’t drink (I don’t even have sobriety seniority in our group at 23 years) and who gel well together.  Many of my friends are much older than I am but that doesn’t matter at all in the scheme of things.

All I had to do was stick around long enough to find out who I liked… and who could tolerate me.  With that out of the way, I’ll ride in almost any kind of crappy weather just to hang out with my friends.

It also doesn’t hurt that my wife and I have side-by-side trainers for when the roads ice up though.  😉

A Star Wars Weekend….

I can still remember seeing Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) for the first time when it came out.  It was, without a doubt, the most amazing motion picture my young eyes had ever seen.  My mom and Aunt Ann took my brothers and I.  I was seven years-old.

Here we are, I’m 38 years older and I can’t wait till the crowds thin enough to see the new Force Awakens

I owned the original three on VHS tapes.  Then I bought the newly remastered edition on VHS (and saw the movies in the theater as they were released).  Finally, I bought the remastered DVD box set when they came out.  Then I bought the next three as they came out – the Special Edition wide-screen versions.

Then, after we bought the home we live in now, I picked up a Bose 5.1 Surround Sound system so I could get the most out of my viewing experience.  More than ten years old, it’s still pure movie watching perfection.  The bass is sick and turning the sound up to just 50% on the race scene in A Phantom Menace shakes the house.

I can still remember forcing myself to dream about Star Wars when I was a kid, placing myself in the action…

In preparation for seeing the new movie, I’ve dug out the last six movies to watch them yet again…  If it is possible to wear out a DVD just by watching it, I’ll surely know.  I’ve seen the original in excess of 40 times over the years, more than that for The Empire Strikes Back (add two more to the total just this week) and the rest I’ve seen dozens of times each.

I came home early from the office, the last two days.  It appears my daughter picked up some form of Ebola from school and managed to pass the gift on.  This has presented an excellent opportunity to get ahead of the Star Wars game for the eventual day when we see the new one on the biggest screen in the county.

So, taking the cue from a friend who produced a similar post, I thought I’d quickly jot down my ranking for the first six:

6.  Return of the Jedi:  Too corny. (VI)

5.  The Phantom Menace:  Other than wanting to dissect Jar-Jar Binks with a lightsaber, I loved this one (especially on the home theater) (I)

4.  The Attack of the Clones (II)

3.  The Revenge of the Sith (III):  The only part I can’t stand in this movie is when Obi Wan, talking to Padme, says “Younglings”.  Should have done that take one more time, George.

2.  A New Hope (IV):  I have a tough time not putting this one in third, but it was an enormous part of my childhood so I’ve gotta give it its due.

1.  The Empire Strikes Back (V)

 

Everything Women Need to Know About Fixing a Bicycle in One Short Post

A young lady, with whom I ether-chat regularly about all things bicycle, is nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of grannies on rocking chairs about working on her bike (actually this generalization applies to many women I know who ride, including my wife).  Now the reasons for this fear are not genetic, I know plenty of guys who won’t work on bikes out of fear as well.  After having worked through this myself, I think the fear is the problem. Fear of messing something up, fear of taking too long, fear of consternation, fear of having to take a messed up bike to the shop… Fear, fear, fear.

What to expect when you know nothing about fixing a bike.

I’ve written two lengthy series on bike repair.  I’ve researched bike maintenance ad nauseam.  I still run into things that confound me.  Take truing a wheel for instance… I can take a mild wobble out in a few seconds but I still have to take my wheels into the shop every now and again to have them trued properly because I’m so lousy at it.  The answer to this is to rent one of the mechanics at the shop for an hour or two so I can learn from one of the best.  On the other hand, there are other simple items that just took taking action – simply going for it. I’ve covered all of the easy stuff in other posts (see the links above). For this post I want to explore the more important fear issues.

First things first, you need to expect to be slow.  If you watch one of the mechanics adjust the index on your rear derailleur, you will notice that it takes him about ten seconds.  If you try it, it could take ten minutes.  My first attempt took more than an hour and I had my shifting so messed up that I almost caved and took the bike to the shop.  Once I figured out the sequence of steps though, once I figured out what I was doing, that all-afternoon event took five minutes.  Then three.  Two…  Now I’m down to ten to 30 seconds – and that drop in time comes about quickly.  Adjusting the brakes on my mountain bike was another of those ridiculously simple tasks that should have taken a couple of minutes.  My first attempt took about a half an hour.

Look at it this way, when you took your first high school Algebra class, did you take Algebra I or did they throw you right into Calculus?  Better yet, did you start on the first chapter of that Algebra book, or half-way through the book?  We all started on that first chapter, whatever math class, and we built upon that knowledge.  If we’re starting from scratch, it’s going to take a minute and some messing up before we gain the knowledge needed to make this easy.

How to cheat at bicycle maintenance.

There is a cheat to bicycle maintenance, and I’m going to let you in on the secret.  It’s not cheap, until you figure in the long run.  I have purchased five brand new bicycles ranging in price from $600 to $3,000 from one bike shop in the last three years.  I buy the bulk of my family’s cycling clothing from that shop.  I’ve bought six sets of high-end clipless pedals, an amazing array of bottle cages, water bottles, chains, cassettes, tires, tubes…  Folks, I made myself one of the owner’s most reliable customers.  It was easy to do this, though I could have saved some money shopping online, because our families actually have a history (the owner’s brother was my gym teacher 35 years ago).  Not only that, as I became more of a regular fixture at the shop, as I came to know, befriend and ride with many of the mechanics and the owner, the great service that I had received became stellar.

Being a good customer has its benefits. First, you should get preferential treatment (not because of the amount spent but because you are a good customer – very important distinction there. A pompous a-hole will be waiting two months for their bike to get fixed even if they purchased the BMC-Lamboghini hyper-bike). Also, the mechanics will often let me in the back so I can watch how they fix my bikes.  This, for me, is a huge benefit, being able to see someone fix something using the proper sequence, quickly.  Get to know the people at your local shop.  That’s the cheat.

Know thy sequence.  And bikes are not cars.  They’re designed to be fixed easily.

Bicycles are not like cars, they’re designed to be fixed simply.  Some fixes require special tools (or a special tool will make a repair easier) but for the most part, you can fix most bike problems with a good set of Allen wrenches and a pair of needle-nose pliers.  Some maintenance can be accomplished with no tools at all, like the rear derailleur adjustment or trimming the brakes (we use barrel adjusters for both).  It’s all about the sequence.  Get the sequence wrong and a 20 second adjustment can take half an hour.  The problem, then, is not in knowing how to adjust a derailleur, it’s knowing the sequence to that adjustment and then how to do the adjustment.

To understand sequencing a bike repair, the first thing I recommend is the Bike Repair App.  The app is not free but it will save you triple the cost of the app the first time you adjust the index on your derailleur (correctly, the first time, in a matter of seconds) without having to take the bike to the shop.  You get Tips and Tricks that cover everything from maintenance to safety.  You get guides to work on just about anything that can go wrong on a bike, a section on What to Wear in a given weather condition or temperature and even a complete glossary.  Oh, and the app’s repair guides are photographical how-to’s.  You can’t go wrong with that app, well not that I’ve encountered anyway.

The “bikes are not cars” axiom doesn’t always seem so sometimes.  Internal cable routing (where the bike’s cables are routed inside a frame) and rear brakes mounted under the chain stays at the bottom bracket add some interesting challenges but those challenging items are still easier than fixing a thermostat or front brakes in a car or truck.  Consider, aligning a mountain bike’s hydraulic disc brakes takes seconds… less time that it takes to retrieve the floor jack from the garage. Two bolts. You loosen the bolts center the brake, you tighten the bolts. The only trick, of course, is you have to know which bolts.

If you’re overwhelmed, start easy and work up to the trickier repairs.  Before you know it, you’ll be able to make your bike look like this:

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…Without worrying about how you’ll get it back together. As I’ve reiterated many times before, you can’t break the bike by trying to adjust or maintain it, bad enough the shop can’t fix what you did.

The main thing is to get that awkward, slow phase out of the way as soon as possible and the only way to do that is start now. Get the app and a nail brush to get the grease out from underneath your nails and get dirty.

After all, you can’t put 6,000 miles on a bike in a year without regular adjustments and a good bit of maintenance. You almost assuredly can’t. Your bike will be in the shop all the time, waiting to be fixed.

The Measure of My Success is not the Time on My Sheet.

There is one main thing I learned in 2015, better than any cycling tip related to breathing, cadence or stamina… better even than some silly tip to keep my weight where I need it to be fast up a hill.  It’s better than any Endomondo (or Strava) piece of data.

I learned this year that the measure of my success in cycling is not about some silly stat or place in the field.

The measure of my success is the size of the smile on my face while I’m turning the pedals over…

And my smile has been big this year.

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I didn’t care about the rest.  I’m too old for that $#!+.

Of course, being fast doesn’t hurt either. 😉