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Why I Ride My Bike(s)…

September 2016
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With my job I’m on call, all day, every day.  Even on vacation.  I have a couple of guys who cover the smaller stuff while I’m on vacation but I still end up fielding a few calls and working on a couple of quotes.  I do love what I do though, even if it is very stressful.  Think of it as playing Monopoly with real money that you don’t have and can’t afford to lose.

I sobered up in 1992.  I was still just a kid and I was thrust into a world of older folk who were sobering up and had been sober, but there weren’t many my age I could relate to.  By ’93 I was rollerblading two evenings a week and both weekend days, between eight and 32 miles a day, at a local County Park.  They’ve got an eight mile loop and at my best I could complete a lap in less than 25 minutes.  I learned that rollerblading, getting and staying fit, helped my recovery from alcoholism.

When I gave up drinking I quit my main escape from reality.  I ceased caring, when I was lit, about all of the problems I created.  It didn’t matter that the problems got worse…  Add to that, I felt as good as anyone else after a six-pack.  Overnight, that was gone and I had to learn how to replace what alcohol was good at by fixing me.  My hour or two of fitness, three or four days a week, allowed me to simply shut everything down.  No problems, no character defects to fix, no worrying about how to work the next step, just me, a pair of shorts, a pair of rollerblades and three minute miles (I was young and stupid, no brakes and no safety equipment).

There was a problem though.  All of that stuff about shutting things down?  Yeah, I didn’t figure all of that out till just a decade ago.  Thirteen years later.

Next came a period of lethargy and steady weight gain, stagnation in my sobriety but a lot of good things in terms of employment.  I went from physical labor work to a desk job (it was no surprise I gained weight).  I was married now and my wife and I maintained a slightly active life, skiing and traveling.  I still dragged out the rollerblades from time to time and took advantage of a roller hockey rink in our neighborhood park and I got a spot on a corporate softball team.

The stagnant sobriety was a problem though.

I got a new sponsor and started running in 2002 (I think).  My wife had been running for about a year with a couple of guys from the program so, chubby and out of options, I joined them and it turned out I was a fair runner.

It was running with those friends in the program and talking with them that I finally started to grasp the importance of fitness to a sober life.  My grip was naive though, incomplete.  We ran together three times a week.  I joined a sober running club and with a gaggle of friends, got fit and re-engaged with a decent program again.

Then, in 2011 I grew bored with running and bought a bike.  A $20 Huffy mountain bike at a garage sale.  I was going to train for a triathlon to shake things up a bit.  The biggest problem was I knew nothing about bikes.  I mean nothing.  I ended up buying three more bikes over the next couple of years.  I did two Olympic distance triathlons with folks from the running club.  To train I’d ride down to the club, run, go for a swim in the lake then ride home.  Seven mile run, thirty mile ride and whatever I felt like in the lake.

I started writing this blog in 2011, after the season, in December.  My understanding of fitness and it’s importance to recovery had matured to a point I actually had something to share (not say, share, because that’s how we do).  My total mileage for the year, between running, riding and swimming was a little over 1,800 miles.  I bought another bike a month later, my Trek 5200.

That bike changed everything, though it looked a lot less sexy when I bought it.  I could ride every day and not be too sore the next day.  I still ran in 2012 but I fell in love with cycling.  I ran only 241 miles in all of 2012 but rode 5,123 miles.  In ’13 I ran only 71 miles but rode 5,560.  Up until this point I was mainly a solo cyclist.  My sobriety was going well and my wife and I had just decided that we would work out our differences and remain committed to our marriage.  We had been struggling mightily over the last several years but we had made a breakthrough.

Another breakthrough came in cycling.  I became a member of the local cycling club (for which I’m now president).  I’d been riding with them on Tuesday’s but I only clicked with one guy.  In 2013 I went all-in and actually befriended several of the other guys.  I was still concerned with the technical aspects of the sport:  Fueling, Fitness, Average and Stars.  Cycling was doing something for me that running only touched on:  Cycling, at 43 years-old, made me feel like a kid again.  It was high-end toys mixed with speed, and it was good.

Then in 2014 I put the stats away.  Completely.  No high-tech computer, no tracking, no apps, no average speed.  Just current speed on a simple cycling computer so I could maintain the speed my friends were riding at.  I’d made several friends on Tuesday night and we rode together a lot.  I’d also paid cash for my Venge at the end of ’13 and that made cycling all the more fun:

My wife and I were in the middle of a winning streak that still continues today.  Sobriety was awesome and my cycling was the perfect escape from day to day life.  It added to my life balance, rather than detracted from it.  Cycling was something that I could do for an hour or so during the weekdays then put some serious hours in on the weekend.  6,000 miles for the year (though this is a guesstimate – I didn’t keep track).

2015 was another breakout season.   My wife started riding with us regularly and became a part of the group and my friends and I did some serious traveling together.  We were all over the state of Michigan and did a two-day ride in Kentucky.  I also participated in my first DALMAC, four days, 380 miles.  The sheer volume of miles for the year was awesome:  7,600 and some change.

I loved cycling from ’11 to ’14 but ’15 was a surprise I wasn’t prepped for.  None of the guys I ride with regularly consume alcohol.  Either they had their fun when they were kids or they’re like me.  Either way, I feel safe with them like I do my program friends and there are no drunken spats to get in the way of friendships.  When we rode, each of us relied on the other go get through the ride as fast as possible but we looked out for each other at the same time.  Gone were being worried about weight and watching what I ate.  At 7,600 miles, food almost didn’t matter, as long as I ate enough to fuel the next ride, it was all good (this is within reason folks… I was never a big eater.  You cannot out ride a bad diet).

Then came this season.  Better still.  My wife turned out to be fast.  Real fast.  I can still smoke her but she’s taken me to the edge more times than I care to share.  Riding with my friends was even better this year with several showing up to do the Dawn Farm ride for Recovery with my wife and me (3 hours for a 100k ride).  As a group, we had our stories from the previous two years and added to them through the summer…  Then my best cycling bud had triple bypass surgery and I was worried.  Once I knew he’d be okay, I worried about how the year would shake up without him.  He is the glue that kept us together.  It turned out better than I could have hoped for and my friend is now back on his bike, getting back to form.

Cycling is more than just a way to burn some calories and build a couple of spectacular legs.  Cycling is what I do for a good time.  I pass time with friends on two wheels, exploring country roads, visiting places I’ve never been before.  Cycling is my escape, just for an hour or two, from an otherwise hectic life.  I buy bikes because they’re my midlife crisis toy, kinda like sports cars only bikes run on fat, not my wallet…

I ride bikes because they’re my happy time.  Bikes make everything else I do in life more enjoyable.  Considering I was just looking for a way to keep from getting fat, I feel like I won the lotto every time I roll out with my wife and friends.

I ride my bikes because they’re good times and noodle salad in carbon fiber and aluminum.

A special thanks to Gail, who was the inspiration for this post.

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7 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    “I ride my bikes because they’re good times and noodle salad in carbon fiber and aluminum.”
    Perhaps another T shirt? 😉

  2. Dan says:

    You’ve transitioned from “cycling as escape” to BEING a cyclist. It’s a big part of what defines you now. I know that feeling well, even without a great riding partner or three? Yeah. I’m proud of my spectacular legs too!

  3. […] to encourage more riders, and indeed, more physical activity at all? Jim pointed out on his post Why I Ride My Bike (s)… that it’s a lifestyle. In our sedentary lifestyle, most people can’t imagine riding a […]

  4. Thanks for sharing. You have such an incredible journey and I hope the bike continues to push you along a happy and fulfilling path.

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