I quit drinking when I was twenty-two. Technically, twenty-two years four months eleven days. Barely old enough to legally get hammered in the first place. I started early, of course, but at the ripe age of sixteen I still started older than many other recovering folks I know. Most people make a thirty-year career out of it before they’re deep enough to want to change. I managed to pack a lot of “deep enough” into six years. In fact, many moons ago after talking about my short stint in a bottle at a meeting, one of the old, grumpy guys said, “Son, I spilled more than you ever drank”. I was prepared, of course. I knew I belonged, “Well if you hadn’t spilled so much, maybe you’d have gotten here sooner”. All of that spillage is true alcohol abuse, don’t ya know?
As the courts continue to swell our ranks through sentencing, it is my responsibility to help any young man* I can to find the happiness I’ve found – or at least as much happiness as they’re willing to work for.
When I first sobered up, I didn’t have a very bright future. A truckload of legal trouble to pay the piper for, a year and a half’s worth of a college education (a dismal failure, I think they actually asked me to not come back), no money and slim prospects for rectifying that. My last job before sobriety was as a victual transportation specialist… I delivered pizza, and I didn’t do all that great a job at it.
Fortunately, I had great mentors who taught me to take things one day at a time, to concentrate on the next task at hand rather than the nebulous outcome. In time I would come to learn that even if I could do something about outcomes, if I had the power to draw everything up the way I thought it should go, I’d have sold myself woefully short. Today I’m infinitely happier and more prosperous than I thought possible back then.
I met the woman who would become my wife shortly before my third sober anniversary. We had grand visions of living a life of hard work, forsaking having children, to accumulate wealth, travel and retire early. I grew steadily in recovery and learned a lot about good, clean living. At ten years sober, five years married and seven “with” my wife, we decided to have kids. We were at a tumultuous period in our marriage but we both vehemently agreed that it would be a great idea. Two months later my wife began her first trimester. We were already both heavily into running, in fact the decision to have kids was made at the finish line of a popular Fourth of July 10k. The next years proved difficult and shortly after the arrival of my second daughter, we were seriously contemplating divorce (my wife reminded me that we were close even at three years married, when we first saw a marriage counselor – I’d completely forgotten, though that first trouble spot was short-lived). In the end, after many years, a lot of hard work and dedication we finally found a way to live together in happiness and harmony. It’s not always perfect but our marriage is very good.
Work is work, of course, but it’s plentiful and pays the bills and I am blessed enough to enjoy what I do.
The beauty of recovering early is that, at 22 years sober, I still have half of my life to look forward to and I already can’t imagine life any better or more enjoyable than it already is. See, while a few hate them, Twelve Step programs are like a fully legal way of “cheating” at the game of “How to Enjoy Life”. They teach all of the best human traits to live by: reliance and reliability, honor, integrity, honesty, decency, helping others freely, reliance on a power greater than self… I could go on and on with the list, it’s too extensive.
The greatest thing I’ve learned (and begun to master) is how my mind works. How thoughts form, how I react or take action accordingly, which thoughts to entertain, which to go with and which to discard on the trash heap – and as long as I continue with my growth and sobriety, I’m only seeing the tip of one very big iceberg… My potential is so huge, I can’t even begin to contemplate how happy I can be because I’m limited by perceptions, dictated by my past experience. Because I chose to begin this journey so early in life, because I have so much life left, there is no end to the great things I can do.
Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball. This could be my last day on the right side of the grass, pumping air. Such is life, but I won’t bother waiting around watching the paint dry to see if that light at the end of the tunnel is a train, only to remain stagnant, stuck in fear, to find out at the last minute before the locomotive strikes me in the forehead that the light, for years and years was the end of the tunnel – the train was just the first to run the line in decades. That had I walked a few hundred yards, years or even decades earlier, I’d have been basking in the glorious sunshine.
*I only work with men, on sobriety. This can tend to upset a segment of women who have absolutely no clue what they’re griping about but men and women handle recovery differently. There are also questions of sex, manipulation and emotional attachment that a married man has no business getting crossed up with. This is not to say I ignore women, I offer whatever simple advice and encouragement I can, but it’s always at an arm’s length. If this bothers you personally, allow me to apologize in advance and feel free to comment below… Let me know your angst. It won’t change anything and I promise, I’ll get over it.
Someone out there in cyberland asked Google the title question and wound up clicking on a link to one of my posts. No doubt the link Google displayed was to my post on how I got to a 23 mph average, my most popular post of all I’ve written. Put in perspective, about 8-10% of my daily hits are on that one post. For all of 2014, it was better than 10%.
For the purpose of this post, please keep a few things in mind: I am a mere avid enthusiast. I have a great bike or two, a day-job and dad legs so everything in this post will come from that perspective. I ride a lot, by “average” standards, between 5,300 and 6,000 miles a year but this is not a lot by “avid enthusiast” standards. I do not race (nor do I have a desire to – I don’t want to make cycling work).
There is one simple description for how hard it is to hold a 25 mph average on a bike: A 20 mph average is hard, 23 is really hard. So that makes 25, just 1mph (and change) slower than the average pace at the Tour de France, well, really, really, really hard (I truly believe I short-changed it, that could use a few more “really’s”).
First, we must address context: Closed vs. Open roads. If you’re riding on closed roads, a 25 mph average will suck a little less – in my experience, open roads which require obeying traffic laws, take about two or three miles per hour off an average. I rode in a particularly fast century in my neck of the woods, we have a racing phenom or ten show up for it and they lead us out at a blistering pace. We average, not including stops, around 25-27 mph while pedaling (it’s not too difficult if the pace is consistent and the group is big enough) – the trick is all of the traffic stops. Two years ago we hit a perfect consistent pace and we were absolutely cruising. We skipped the first hydration station, hit the second for a quick nature break and to top off the bottles and were back at. We rolled into the 58 mile food/hydration station and I was sure we’d be well north of 25 mph… The tracking software on my phone showed 23.8mph, that’s it. We ended up dropping a mile an hour by the next stop, in the hills, at 85 miles (22.8) but I was pretty much shot by then anyway. A smaller group of us finished at 21.7. The main group blew through the stop and picked up the pace. In any event, there’s no doubt we would have been a lot faster if stopping hadn’t been required at traffic signs.
Second, are we talking about a group ride or solo? If solo, right after you get to a point where you can hold that 25 mph average for an hour on open roads, get into racing because you will win. A lot. In fact, at that speed you’ll be faster than about 99% of anyone who rides a bike. If you weren’t aware, the world record for an hour, on an indoor track, with no wind, is just over 31 mph… No hills, no traffic, no debris in the road – and was ridden by one of the toughest pros in recent memory.
As far as my experience goes, when you’re looking at 25 mph, that’s so fast that for we simple avid enthusiasts, if we can pull at the front of a pack for a mile or two at that speed it’s exceptional. I can do it, but I usually like a pretty fair tailwind and it hurts. If you’re close to that pace and honestly looking at getting to that level, I’d have to recommend a coach because that’s some next-level cycling right there. Pat yourself on the back because you’re a monster.
ED: I almost forgot, 25 mph is a little more attainable as an average on a time trial or triathlon bike but this post looks at the question from the standpoint of a road bike. If you’re asking the question from the saddle of a mountain bike, on your next ride, stop by the bike shop, buy a decent road bike, call Sky (the pro cycling team) and ask for a tryout.
UPDATE: If you wonder about elevation, it can have a huge impact on average speed. See the first comment string below.
This isn’t my first rodeo with this topic but my understanding and outlook has evolved a little bit…
My hoops are currently aluminum. They are exquisitely matched to my Venge.. So much so that, well:
If it gets better than that, I don’t know how. My hoops, aluminum, are excellent for the price I paid for them. Not exactly trouble-free over the last year and some but for what I paid, close enough. I paid less than $400 for them… And they’re under 1,500 grams (1,456 to be exact).
Now, two people whom I have a great deal of respect for, Gerry who writes The Vicious Cycle Blog and the owner of my local bike shop, an old-time frame builder with a world record bike under his belt, are both looking at new wheels for their steeds – and that naturally got me to thinking about my hoops. Such is life I suppose, everyone should be lucky enough to have my problems.
I happened over to road.cc because the Corima wheels I really want are way out of my price range.
Next, I found Amp Hoops. They make a 38mm carbon wheel that got rave reviews, not only for their quickness and durability but their price. They list for just over $1,000, a fantastic price and they match the Venge quite well… Could Amp be the answer to my carbon fiber dreams?!
Alas, no. They’re not.
Carbon hoops, much to my friend Henry’s chagrin, will be the first chunk of carbon I could add to my bike but will choose to forego. While I want my bike to look badass as it can, I do, I do, I do…carbon hoops just don’t fit the way I ride.
See, I’m not afraid to break the 45mph speed limit by more than 10mph blasting down a hill but only when I can do so knowing I’m not going to overcook a turn and launch myself into a tree. When it comes to navigating switchbacks and such, I’m a dad and husband first. If I don’t know the road or have a long stretch ahead that provides enough time to react, I’m cautious, not so “hair on fire”. That’s a period at the end of that sentence. This means I’m not afraid to ride me some brakes on the way down a technical descent which does not mix well with carbon rims and I will not put myself in a position where I have to worry about braking in any way. That’s just the way it is. If that wasn’t enough, and it is, I not now, nor do I see in the near future, have any desire to get into racing. I’m not the racing type, I’m the avid enthusiast type and I simply can’t find the need to spend another $3,000 to make my bike look cool, especially if that three grand won’t fit my riding style in the first place. While my bike would look very nice with those Corima’s on it, I wouldn’t get any bang for that buck – what little aerodynamic benefit there might be, I can more than make up for with a little “want to” and that’s free.
There are other options of course, namely Rolf Prima’s, a 38mm, aero alloy hoop that is deceptively tough for its light weight. I know those are some nice, fast wheels, a friend rides them. One day, when I have some disposable income, I’ll think about upgrading my wheels. I won’t be holding my breath though. I’ll need it for all of the miles between now and then.
As I mentioned earlier, my attitude has evolved. It used to be I would get caught up in the pursuit of all things carbon fiber that pertain to cycling but as I’ve matured in the sport just a little, I’ve come to realize that it’s invaluable when it comes to some things but is overkill for others. Nowadays, I know that my enjoyment of the sport and meeting my necessities in that pursuit far outweighs how “cool” the material is that my wheels are made of.
When my dad was my age (44), I was 17. Things were a lot less happy than I knew but I lived in a nice little cocoon of awesomeness that my parents spun around me.
My dad was relatively healthy back then, except for the fact that he still smoked like a chimney (2 packs a day, sometimes 3 – I quit more than twelve years ago now, I think). My dad was fairly active (if active is considered getting in and out of a golf cart), more than average and in spite of his numerous imperfections, did a great job of raising me. My mom played a bigger, better role in my upbringing but in the end, my pops taught me to be a man (my mom taught me how to properly treat a woman – something my dad didn’t do so well).
As I watch friends and family contract ugly illnesses and the pace of deaths has hit a fever-pitch, I can’t help but think back on how grateful I am to have the past that I do and that I responded to external stimuli as I did.
My dad died of a combination of Alzheimer’s and alcohol induced “wet brain” (dementia brought about by excessive alcohol consumption). Also had a nice case of COPD, obviously a result of smoking. He drank well into his sixties even though he’d sworn off of it dozens of times.
Unlike my dad, I’d had enough of the drinking at 22, quit smoking before I was 35 and maintained a level of fitness my dad never had the stomach (or made the time) for. In fact, now that I think of it, neither of my folks did anything to stay in shape. No jogging, no biking, not even walking.
This year I’m staring at the mid-point between 40 and 50. That wonderful age when so many people slow down. I’m entirely mood and mind altering substance-fee, tobacco free (more on that at a later date) and I’m still getting faster. In addition to cycling, I’m getting back into swimming, cranking out intervals and hanging with an incredibly fit crowd. I am the opposite of my dad’s example for my kids. I am Ward Cleaver, only funnier, happier, sexier and faster.
I don’t claim to have the market cornered on happiness, sobriety or fitness – I have my struggles just like anyone else but the truth is, I do lead a life I can be happy with. I chose the words in that last sentence carefully. One would normally use “proud” in place of “happy” but I have to be very mindful when it comes to pride.
There are two things I don’t do well, and a fella needs to know his limitations as they say…I don’t do righteous indignation or pride (unless it’s a self-mocking, tongue in cheek, pride – that, I rock at). When it comes to righteous indignation, I’m rash, harsh and often say (or write) things without first thinking them through. This, almost always, leads to misunderstanding and me eating some form of crow (warm or cold).
Pride is trickier, more insidious, dangerous. Everything I’ve said or written over the last 22 years was said or written before. On the other hand I have done some pretty cool things with what I’ve had and that’s where it gets messy. Without taking up another thousand words trying to explain this, I’ll limit it to just a few:
There is a fine line between pride and false pride. In my case, I have absolutely no idea where that line is or even what it looks like. Far better for me is to leave figuring that one out to others. Instead I choose to be thankful, simply that I was able to pay attention and pick up what I needed, that I could lead a reasonably happy life.
One thing is for sure… My dad never looked like this at my age:
How many times have you gotten a big ball rolling? How often have you come up with an idea, laid down a ton of cash, put forth even more effort into getting everything ready for the big day only to get to the starting line and think, “Oh crap, now the real work starts?
Success isn’t easy, at least not as I’ve experienced it. It’s a lot like running a marathon and then running it again immediately after you cross the finish line just to make sure you did the first one right. It’s like preparing for an Ironman (140.6) only to have to run it, but without a finish line.
This week I’m meeting with my logistics guy, we have a photo shoot to do and I’ve got the web developer – whom I haven’t told we’re going a completely different direction from where we were last Tuesday, on top of my day job, at a time when we’re slowing down a little bit and I have to keep my guys busy. And the funny thing about all of this, last night I’m sitting there watching the football game and I’m thinking about all of the fun stuff I get to do this week (take part in a professional photo shoot for one) and all I can think of is the dread of trying to shoe-horn everything in to the next 96 hours… I know this is no way to live and that feeling has got to go, but how to shake it?
Such is the life… One day at a time.
The truth of the matter is, if I were to look at everything I have to do, for this week, there’s a fair to average chance I’d end up having a panic attack right here sitting at my desk (been there before). Instead, I started leaving reminders on my phone calendar whenever they struck me while watching the game, for things that I would normally forget in the heat of the moment. Now that I’m into the beginning of this week, it’s just going to be one task at a time, complete it and move on to the next. This is the only way I know to plow through everything without messing it all up. This is how recovery works, one day at a time. All of a sudden you’re sitting on a couple of decades, trying to figure out how you did as well as you did with so little work.
That’s how it rolls, and I like it. Oh, and I like to remember this: If it was easy anybody could do it.
I’ve had some lousy luck with getting sick so far this year… The last time I had even a look at a cold was some time last winter. I’ve had a cold and am just getting over a bout with the flu so far since January First. I was able to ride on Monday and Tuesday but Wednesday morning, about 8am, I was not doing well. I ended up coming home early and tried to sleep it off but all that did was make it tough to sleep that night. Thursday was pretty rough and Friday wasn’t much better. Yesterday, the girls had a swim meet that lasted into the evening so I didn’t get anything done.
I was still feeling a little ugly this morning but I slept in a little bit and to be honest, I was feeling a little chubby. We had a nice breakfast and by noon I was fit to be tied. I could have done the “listen to my body” thing but there’s a big difference (for me) between “listening to my body” and “using my body as an excuse to sleep on the couch”. Mrs. Bgddy and I hit the trainers and I worked up one helluva sweat… And it was good.
We’ve got a fantastic Steak Nachos dinner lined up to enjoy during the football games this evening.
Humorously, I feel a lot better already. A cold or the flu is always a funny thing with me. That first day or two, when my hair follicles hurt, I need to hide my head under a blanket. After that though, the only thing that really breaks its proverbial back is getting a good sweat on.
Happy days are here again.