The Sweet Smell of Happiness
My brothers and I would stay up north, at my grandma’s house, for a week or two every summer. Alpena, Michigan, right on Lake Huron. We would play with the neighborhood kids all day long, never setting foot indoors until it was dinner time. We would swim in a neighbor’s pool, an in-ground monster with a 10′ deep end and a diving board. Those were the days!
Fast forward ten years and I’m a teenager. I’ve got my own car and those days are well behind me. I’ve got things to do and places to be! I’ve got a job so I can feed the car. Sadly, nobody’s ever made their millions working the drive-thru at a hamburger joint.
Fast forward five more years and those childhood days aren’t even a memory, they’re gone. I’ve morphed from an awkward kid to an insecure kid to a full-blown alcoholic. I’ve got money problems, legal problems and nothing I try can fix the predicament I created. Survival instincts have kicked in and I’m too worried about my next drink to bother with thinking about when I was a kid – or how far I’ve fallen.
Fast forward another five years and I’ve sobered up. God has done for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Now it’s time to make up for those lost years. Life is all about making something of myself now. No time for anything other than work but rollerblading at the local county park… This is where I learned that fitness is almost as important to sobriety as air and willingness.
Fast forward five more years and I’m engaged to be married. My wife and I have a small house, I have a steady job and I am fully committed to living a sober life. I am finally an adult.
Fast forward five more years and I’m a runner now. We’re out for a run and I’m pushing my daughters in a double running stroller. I have a career now and my wife and I are not exactly happy together but we’re making it. I am sober and just trying to figure life out. It’s hot and humid… That’s when I run through a wood-lined section of road and a sweet smell takes me back to those days of playing up north at my grandma’s house with my friends. I have no idea what it is, but it makes me happy.
Fast forward ten years. You guessed it, still happily sober but my wife and I have figured our marriage out (with a lot of help) and we’re in the middle of the happiest streak we’ve ever had. I’ve been into cycling for a few years now, having trained for and done a couple of triathlons and deciding the swim and run were messing up a perfectly good bike ride. In fact, one of the best parts of riding is the fact that I ride through that favorite smell of mine a lot more often. It seems every week or so now, I get that waft of pure joy. I still can’t figure out what it is but it makes me happy like nothing else I know.
Fast forward to the ride from Lansing to Mackinaw City last year, on the fourth day. The day before, I rode through that sweet smell in the air so many times I lost count. Today we’re riding up the coast of Lake Michigan and I’m in the middle of at least a two-mile-long stretch and that sweet smell of my awesome childhood surrounds me. I have a grin stretched from ear to ear, enjoying the sunshine and looking all around me. And that’s where it finally hit me.
It’s the sweet smell of cedar.
The one smell on this earth that takes me back instantly to those perfect carefree days, playing in my grandma’s neighborhood is the smell of cedar. Not Godforsaken cedar chips, actual, real cedar trees. Combine that with the one activity that makes me feel like a kid again, cycling, and it’s nirvana.
Soon I’ll complete that journey again. Day three and four are gonna be awesome…
The Ultimate Peanut Butter and Jelly Hack…
So I’m sitting there last night, thinking my wife’s spectacular homemade Chicken Noodle soup just wasn’t enough to fill the cavern that is my stomach in full cycling season… I’m going to be just shy of 1,000 miles this month. That’s a lot of hungry right there.
Anyway, Sara Lee came out with the best PB&J bread in the history of human kind, they call it Artesano, and we’ve got a loaf sitting on top of the fridge. I pull it down and begin to fix a sammich for myself… I pull out the crunchy, natural peanut butter and the squeezable strawberry jelly, and WHAM! Like a volleyball to the noggin, it hits me…
We have strawberries.
This is my lunch today:
The First Time I’ve Ever Hoped for Rain on a Weekend… And I’m Going to be Disappointed.
I’ve got my rain bike all set up for DALMAC. The good wheels are on the Trek 5200, a brand new set of S-Works tires, washed, waxed, lubed and ready to go.
She’s all dressed up and ready to dance. The Venge is hung on the wall with care. I wanted to take the Trek for two reasons:
- If it rains, I can clean it faster and easier for the next day (and I don’t mind getting it dirty).
- For four miles… Three miles climbing to the wall, and the wall. The 5200 is equipped with a triple crankset.
Last year, after finishing, I had my Venge in the shop for the better part of four days, having new cables and housings installed on it, after taking two hours to completely dismantle it and clean it up.
The first day, it poured. The second, the roads were still wet:
Yes, we’re passing a horse, and that is sexy. You can see the dampness though. I was going to be prepared this year…
The weather channel is showing the best Labor Day weekend weather we’ve had in fifteen years. Perfect, flawless. Cool mornings, mid 70’s in the afternoon. And sun, all weekend long.
All of a sudden, taking the Venge makes sense. It’s three pounds lighter, faster, more comfortable in the drops, it’s a vastly better bike and the gearing is better for all but one measly percent of the ride.
What would you do?!
Cycling; Rolling Time or Ride Time? The Case for Rolling Time, for Amateurs of course.
We had an interesting discussion on our ride yesterday… One of the guys who rode with us last week posted a rolling time of 4:47 for the century, and though he wasn’t with us yesterday, that was the start of a broader discussion. He started with us and was with us all the way to the 85 mile mark. I didn’t keep track of whether or not he finished with us, whether he stopped at the rest stop we did, or whether he just kept going. Let’s just say we went by rolling time, and we completed the hundred in 4:58. We rolled into the parking lot, a mile more down the road from the 100 mile mark, less than three minutes later. The chance he knocked off eleven minutes in just fifteen miles, when we were cruising between 23 & 26 mph, is impossible. He must have a magic computer.
That said, it was brought up on yesterday’s ride that we should go by ride time, rather than rolling time. It didn’t matter for yesterday’s ride, as they were the same. 56.5 miles in 2:52:10, a 19.7 mph average. No stops. Not too shabby.
The Assenmacher 100 was a different story though. Rolling time was 5:00:05 but ride time was closer to 5:40…
I go by rolling time for one simple reason. Normal cyclists have to stop. We don’t have a support staff to keep us rolling.
We don’t have people out there to hand us food or cars to draft behind to get us back to the peloton after a nature break… We can’t just whip it out on the side of the road like they do in a race.
So, for that simple fact that we mere mortals have to stop, it only makes sense to go by rolling time.
This is my position on the matter. Rolling time is what counts.
Everyone Needs a Cycling Friend or Eight: 68 Miles Amongst some of Mine.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this season has been my cycling friends. With Mike out of commission till October, the dynamic is different but we’re getting by. Mike is the glue of our group so without him, we’re just kind of bopping around.
We have, however, managed.
Chuck, Phill, Ethan and I headed south yesterday, to change things up a bit. To start, it was awesome – we were the only vehicles on the road. Sadly that didn’t last… and our normal route down to the General Motors Proving Grounds, which features roads as smooth as a baby’s butt, was shut down for bridge repair so not only did traffic suck, the road almost resembled Swiss cheese. In fact, I was going to write “the road was Swiss cheese”, but I thought, “C’mon Jim, no paved road is Swiss cheese, you can’t write that.” Folks, I got a pinch flat with a brand new set of tires that only had 50 miles on them. It was my second pinch flat. Ever. In 30,000+ miles. It was bad.
Anyway, we cruise around the Proving Grounds, and on the way around Chuck had a guy proposition him out the window of his pickup truck with another man driving. I couldn’t believe it! Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, I guess… So this guy announces out the window that he’s a “c***sucker”, I’m assuming with the hope that Chuck would stop pedaling and drop his shorts right there, but my word people! What’s up with the promiscuity?! Where’s the tact?! That doesn’t happen in real life! Especially with a group of straight guys riding bikes, in Lycra!
Anyway, I shouted back, “No thanks”, as they sped away.
From there, we headed over to Kensington Metropark and then Mitford. Ethan was hungry and wanted a sammich before the journey home. Chuck led the way to Tim Horton’s where we could get us a good Old Fashioned pompous bacon, sausage, egg and cheese bagel. Why pompous, you wonder?! Tim Horton’s is Canadian. They put pompous in the water up there.
Fortunately there are Canadian people, like my friend, Sue, who apparently drink Fiji water instead. I digress…
We sat and ate and lamented the fact that Ethan would be moving to the west side of the State next week amd we laughed about the guy who wanted to give Chuck a… well, you know. Then we headed home.
We all took turns in the wind and made decent time. The skies turned ugly but held off the rain till we made it to the parking lot and had time to load up and head home. It rained for the next four hours straight.
Anyway, I typically never kept a lot of friends as a younger lad. I had a negative impression of myself, I thought I was ugly, so I only ever let a few people in.
Thank God, getting and staying sober transformed me into the person I am, because I have a lot of friends today.
Cycling friends are the best. We ride together, we laugh, we bump fists, and we go home to our lives. No BS… Just miles and laughs.
So why eight, when we clearly only had four? Dude, how much time do you want to spend up front, overachiever? The more the merrier, bro!
Riding a Bicycle for Sanity…
My Friday morning was hectic. I’m working on bidding and selling a huge job, it’ll be the biggest of my career if I land it – and I’m heading out to a kickoff meeting for another giant next Wednesday.
My wife and I decided to squeeze our ride in at noon because, thankfully, lunchtime is still quite sacred. One minute after 1 pm my phone blew up, figuratively, while we were hanging out at the shop.
I rode home as fast as I could… Put it this way, my wife was struggling a little so our first 20 miles were done at 17 mph. By the time I rolled into the driveway just five miles later, the average was up to 18.
I had to head out, all the way over to the west side of the State to pick up some material for a job I’m doing down in Ann Arbor. Not quite sniffing water “west” but close. Then I had to drop it off at one of my guy’s house in Lansing…. before getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way home. Take away my hour and a half bike ride and I put in a fifteen hour day yesterday – and it wasn’t one of those fun fifteen hour days. It was a Monday. Just on a Friday.
As I was sitting in that traffic jam, I started looking for alternate routes around it. It just so happens I was just outside of one of the towns we ride to once or twice a month. I knew exactly how to get back. The people trying to avoid the traffic jam stuck to the two easy routes around the backup while I enjoyed quiet country roads, almost devoid of traffic, all the way home. Because I ride a bike.
A ride makes a day better almost every time. Sometimes the bike ride is the only thing that goes right in a day, but this was the first time a bike ride salvaged a messed up day.
I spent the last half hour of my trip home contemplating how lucky and grateful I was for my family, friends and cycling. How about that.
All Dressed Up… and a BUNCH of Places to Go…
If you want to know if you’re in good shape, go for a 100 mile bike ride. You’ll know.
If you want to gauge your passion for cycling, try four in a row.
I got my front wheel back from the shop yesterday. I picked it up on the way home and had it installed, with new decals on both wheels, and new S-Works tires, before heading out the door on my rain bike. Total time needed to get everything done, 30 minutes.
After taking a day off the bike on Wednesday for thunderstorms, it looked like we were going to be rained out again, yesterday. There was a reason I took the rain bike – it was lookin’ ugly outside and it had been pouring rain just an hour before.
I hate rain days but I hate taking summer days off the bike more, so my wife and I risked it and headed out the door around 5:30.
It looked ugly a few times but in the end, we did spend most of the ride in the sunshine and didn’t get hit with so much as a drop.
For the weekend, we’ll be taking it easy with a couple of 100k’s over Saturday and Sunday. There are no major rides this weekend as DALMAC is on us. Now many would assume this would be what people call a “taper” week, but we all know my stance on tapering; I’ll taper when I’m dead.
The Body Mass Index is a Tool, though A Greater Tool Exists…
My body mass index (BMI) currently sits at 24, on the nose. For every pound that I gain over my current 177 pounds, I go up a tenth of a point. 24.9 is the final cutoff between “okay” and “overweight”
Going by a standard, non-gender specific calculator, I’m at the high-end of my proper weight. If I go by the calculator that factors in age and gender, however, I’m smack-dab right in the middle of perfect:
BMI calculators are tricky things though. No online calculator can take my larger than average legs into account. Being a cyclist, my upper body is good but less than impressive. My legs, on the other hand, are things of beauty. They’re perfect. They have to be to get through all of the miles I put on them. If I had to guess, I’ve got about ten pounds in my legs that most normal people wouldn’t have.
My BMI, being what it is (and those remarks that accompanied my calculations are wonderful), is only a small part of the puzzle when it comes to managing one’s weight. First and foremost, I don’t go all next level and try to micromanage my weight. I’ve never had to. When I figured out, fourteen or fifteen years ago, that I was overweight (I was about nine pounds overweight, going by the BMI calculator), I didn’t panic. To quote another blogger, I learned to move more and eat less. It was really that simple. The weight came off and I was happy again.
When I started cycling though, my weight plummeted. I was all the way down to 150 and I was too skinny. I had a tough time seeing it at the time, but I did need some meat on my bones. Now I try to maintain something between 170 and 175, though I have spent some time this year between 180 and 183. Still within the margin of error, but pushing maximum density.
There exists one low-tech tool that is of much greater value to me than a BMI calculator:
My belt. On my black belt, if it doesn’t fit, I’m fat. If I’m using the last buckle hole, I need to watch my weight. If I’m using the second to the last, I’m perfect and if I’m one smaller than that, my wife was complaining that I’m too skinny about two weeks prior.
With my macro view of my weight, everything becomes simple…
If I’m on that last belt loop, eat less, move more. If I’m on the second, keep doing what I’m doing. If I’m on the third, eat more*.
*Moving less simply isn’t an option – there’s just too much fun out there to have on a bike.
The Joy that is Recovery from Addiction
I don’t remember much of my life before recovery. I was 22 years-old back then, didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. It doesn’t help that I’ve never remembered my entire 21st year on the planet. It was one big blackout. I literally remember nothing after my 21st birthday until after I turned 22 and the People of the State of Michigan decided I should probably sober up.
I know what was out there for me if I’d have stuck to drinking. The likelihood that I’d even be on the right side of the grass, pumping air at 46 is pretty slim. I’ve seen too many good people end up in prison, or worse, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t kick getting drunk or high.
All too often, when it comes to recovery, I see things that just break my heart. The notion that a massage or some good old-fashioned self-knowledge will “cure” a person is deceptive at best, deadly at worst, but usually just plain stupid.
Now maybe I was a special kind of messed up. Perhaps I was a real, real hardcore drunk?
I needed my entire life overhauled. I needed to learn how to be honest with myself and others – and that’s more than your “That depends on your definition of the word ‘is'” political honesty too. I mean rigorously frickin’ honest. It means, “I know what will happen if I allow alcohol or drugs into my system… Chaos.” honesty.
I have to do the best I can to be the best person I can or I’ll be lost or dead. There are no second chances, no more bites at the apple, no more ways I can game the system. I have to be done trying to figure everything out. I have to be done trying to cheat, lie and steal my way through life.
I have to maintain a fit lifestyle. I’m a miserable SOB when I’m polishing the couch with my butt. Hell, I even hate me like that.
I also had to give up all delusions that I can ever drink alcohol or consume mood or mind-altering drugs successfully. I’ve tried every combination out there, I just can’t make it work.
Finally, I had to start living a life based on spirituality. Not, “go to confession and give me ten Hail Mary’s” spiritual. “Do unto your brothers as you would have me do unto you” spirituality.
I read a post yesterday, written by a doctor, that proposed the key to fixing addiction is fixing poverty and homelessness. That sounds awesome but it’s not even close. It’s so wrong, I actually chuckled. Here I was, a silver spoon in my butt 22 year-old kid, never had a want for anything and fixing poverty and homelessness is going to straighten me up? How naïve! That might make a great government grant request but the notion is silly on its face.
Poverty and homelessness are symptoms of alcoholism. As is dishonesty, as is lethargy, as is a complete moral decay of a person. Fixing the symptoms only keeps one dependent on the medication.
For me to have a fighting chance, I had to fix the alcoholic, and that takes a little more than a nice bike, a massage, and a place to hang my hat.
As they like to say, if you sober up a horse thief, you’ve still gotta deal with the horse thief.
Cycling Happiness: Know Thy Limits, Push Thy Limits, Eat Well, Help Others and Be Merry
This very well can be my best cycling season yet. I’ve got a pile of miles in. I’m fit. I’m happy. I’m enjoying cycling with my wife. We’ve been on a number of cycling trips this year and they’ve been progressively more enjoyable. It hasn’t been all good times and noodle salad though it has been good… and I’ve eaten more than a few pounds of noodle salad.
First, I told a friend last night at the club ride that cycling is the only thing I know of that makes me feel like a kid again. That’s only partially true though, because as I kid I had a cheap Murray 15 sp. mountain bike that I beat to death. Today, not only do I have a couple of high-end road bikes, I’ve got a decent mountain bike as well. I’m no longer relegated to riding to friends’ houses and around the neighborhood, I take my bikes camping, to explore roads hundreds of miles away with the only care of the day being busting out some miles with my wife and friends. I get to feel like a kid without the constraints of being a kid.
If I’ve learned anything about cycling, with all of the attempts at riding with the A guys, with getting dropped every week from the group to finally forming our B group, and all of the awesome adventure vacations I’ve been on, it’s this:
- I have my limits and the closer I get to them, the less fun I have during the ride. After the ride, now that’s a different story. There’s always a certain tough guy euphoria after completing a tough ride that I don’t get if I’m not right at the edge. That said, all things being equal, I enjoy the below threshold rides a little more than what is described as “suffer-fests”.
- I still have to push those limits because it’s been fairly stated, if you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower.
- “Eat well” does not mean eating like a vegan monk. I still eat a lot of the fun stuff that cycling makes possible, obviously moderation and good choices are imperative.
- Cycling, especially club cycling, is all about helping others. By getting out of myself I enjoy life so much more than if it’s spent inside the gray matter between my ears.
- Some cyclists get their joy from crushing each other on a ride. They’re not wrong, it’s just what makes them happy. I don’t have to understand it – and I certainly don’t have to take part in it if it doesn’t do the same for me (and it doesn’t). Others get their joy from a slow spin… there’s nothing wrong with that either. Then there are those of us who like fast, without the race. There are local cycling clubs that represent all types of cyclists. The best part is, fit people aren’t a glum lot. Chances are you’ll be able to find people inside a group that you’ll gel with. Cycling solo has its merits, but nothing beats a nice weekend ride with a bunch of friends.
The important thing to remember is that nobody ever got fit sitting on the couch. Get out there and ride.