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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Thou Shalt Learn to Draft:  How NOT to be seen as a Twatwaffle During an Advanced Club Ride.  A Guide for Noobs.

When I ride with noobs to our group, I go out of my way to make sure they feel welcome and comfortable… Until they show me who they are.  I know of only one person I will consciously run into the ground to drop.  I will put myself so far into the red to drop this guy, my little brother, sitting at home 1,800 miles away in Florida, will feel the ache.  He is known on this page as Time Trial Bike Guy.  He is the very definition of a twatwaffle.  I would have written a hole of the butt, but twatwaffle sounds a lot funnier.  And TTBG deserves that.

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A finely tuned double pace line

 

The following is a list of things that, should you do them in an advanced club setting, will guarantee you’re riding alone after the weekend invites go out.

  • Launch a snot rocket when you’re at the front of the group.  Duh.
  • Constantly leave gaps in the pace line because you don’t know when to shift or can’t shift because you’re riding a freaking time trial bike (electronic rigs have shifters on both the aerobars and next to the brake levers btw).  If you can’t hold the wheel in front of you, you belong at the back.  Getting others dropped because you can’t keep the draft is not a good way to win friends and influence people.
  • You don’t pull all the way through when you get to the front of the group.  What this means is, as soon as the person in front of you taps out, you (being next in line to pull) tap out and drop to the back with the person in front.  What this shows everyone around you is that you expect to be pulled around by the group but not only are you not willing to do your part, you don’t care if you screw everyone else behind you.  You shouldn’t be surprised if nobody wants you to ride with them… who would want to ride with a person when there is literally no benefit to having them there?
  • Don’t hold a decent line.  If you can’t hold a decent line the people behind you can’t get a good draft because they’re too busy trying to keep you from crashing them.  If they can’t get a good draft you make yourself useless.  Literally.  Useless.
  • Disrupt the general awesomeness of a ten-person-deep double pace line with your lousy riding.  One poor rider making mistake after mistake can make a group of twenty people who ride three times a week together look like a bunch of noobs.
  • Pull back on your bike when you stand on your pedals to adjust your ass whilst, and at the same time, going uphill… in the middle of the pace line.  You don’t know it, because you’re dim, but your bike drifts back about eight inches when you pull back on the bike to stand.  Stand and adjust when you get to the back or, if you absolutely can’t wait, accelerate just a bit before you stand… Otherwise, everyone behind you has a heart attack because their 20 cm buffer just became 3 mm.  As a reaction, everyone has to grab a handful of brakes and you’ve unwittingly put everyone at risk of an accident.
  • Stop pedaling to take your water bottle out of its cage.  Dude, you can only get away with that at the back.  Do everyone you’ll ever ride with a favor, learn to remove the bidon (H2O bottle) whilst, and at the same time, pedaling.  It is not impossible.
  • Stop pedaling at the front of the group (I did this once, just once, and almost wiped out six of my best friends).  Don’t. FREAKING. Do. It.  Put your hand out to signal you’re slowing.
  • Speaking of hand signals, know yours.  They vary by location, so to detail them here would be futile.  For instance, a left arm flick can mean “I’m out, come up on the left of me, or  “I’m out, and exiting on the left”, all depending on the Town/City/State/Province you ride.
  • UPDATE:  From The Tempo Cyclist:  Don’t pull too long at the front.  It’s a club ride, dude.  You’re not the lead out for Mark Cavendish…  Know when you’re done and get your butt to the back to recover.
  • The main theme of ALL of these bulletpoints is simple:  Think of the others you’re riding with.  If you don’t, or worse, won’t, you’re not worth having around.  Or worse, you’re dangerous to have around.

Consider this:   At just 25 mph, you will travel almost 40 feet in one second.  In a tight group, there will be less than a foot between your rear wheel and their front wheel.  You travel that gap in one fortieth of one second.  There is no room, literally, for a member of the group to disregard safe riding practices.

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Tuesday Night Club Ride:  The Perfect Night Edition

Every cyclist has experienced the perfect ride.  They are few and far between.

I was ready to roll at five minutes past five.  Five minutes early.  The parking lot only held two cars, other than mine.  No worries, the weather was absolutely perfect.  Upper 70’s (that’s 25 for you folks across the pond), not a cloud in the sky and a breeze that was struggling to make it to 4 mph if you could feel it at all.

McMike pulled into the lot and readied himself, then Phill. And we rolled.

Rather than blow words on a warm-up, I’ll simply say that it was stupid fast.  Fastest of the season.  Eight miles and I just ticked past 25 minutes.  Oddly, I was up front the whole way….  I never pull that long at that speed for a warm-up.

The parking lot started to fill up with fifteen minutes to go.  As has been the case for a month, we had more B guys than A guys.  They rolled as we sat on our top tubes talking about the last weekend’s rides.   After a couple of minutes we rolled.  My new friend Doug and I up front with the group forming up behind us.  We took the first two miles and worked up to 22 mph before heading back for a rest.  That first quarter mile was the last time we saw a speed under 20 mph till we hit the hills.

We had two new guys with us and they worked into the group seamlessly – at least from what I saw but I spent most of the ride up front.

See, with no wind, riding even four bikes back, if you tuck into the draft just right, it feels like it pulls you down the road.  Recovery from a decent turn up front is easy and quick.  Eight miles in, Phill and I took a monster three-mile pull north of 22-23 mph and I was recovered within a mile.

So it went for the entire rest of the ride.  I was feeling like it was the beginning of the season.  My legs felt vibrant and strong – in fact, everything was working right last night.  Lungs, heart, even my melon committee decided I felt good and just sat in the background chanting, “Go.  Go.  Go.  Go.”  I took the first sprint point at 22 miles without a challenge at 32 mph and I had plenty left in the tank.  I stayed up front and pulled the group for another mile and a half.

I spent way too much time up front over the next eight miles but didn’t care, I was on.  Approaching the finish line I found myself up front again, at 24 mph and decided rather than push it too hard, I’d keep it there and see if I couldn’t sprint off the front for the City Limits sign.  I launched at exactly the right time and left everyone flat-footed.  I only needed 28 mph to create an insurmountable gap and I coasted across the line.

We managed our best time of the season last evening and we were all smiles as we pulled into the parking lot.  The two new guys worked out great and even took a few turns at the front – and were both stoked to come back.

I would say, without a doubt, that was the best weather we’ve had all year long on Tuesday night.  Add to that the two new guys who rode quite well and the fact that I felt so good…  Well, let’s just say it’s even better than noodle salad.

Shut Up and Ride, B!+€#!  Your Fat @$$ Ain’t Getting any Younger.

That is, of course, a gender-neutral “b!tch” because the title is roughly the argument I present to that @$$hole in my melon committee who is incessantly nagging for a day off.

This is what I thought on the way up “The Wall “, long about the time I wanted to walk it up the last half:  “F@ck you, motherf@cker!  You will push those motherf@ckin’ pedals around till you’re on top of that f@ckin’ hill.  Now MOVE!

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That is not a happy-go-lucky smile on my face.  Happy showed up at the top of the hill.

I know most people want pretty happy talk nowadays.  Nice, little motivational quotes like… cripes I can’t even think of any right now.  The Web oozes with that bullshit.  Oh, here’s a good one I read the other day:

Our Existence is our presence that the world can see, feel and experience through our work, our impact, our presence.

What a crock of $#!+.  If one were to speak to oneself like that, well, just plan on riding with the D group I guess.

Dude, I truly believe that had I thought that gobbledygook, I wouldn’t have walked my bike up that hill.  I’d have taken the old-timer’s route around it.

I’ll never understand all of that silly happy talk, and for that I am grateful.

Ride hard my friends.

Why I Ride My Bike(s)…

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.

The Perfect Temporary Fix for a Paint Chip on a Carbon Fiber Bike Frame…

Facts are facts, if you’re not getting chips in your paint job, you’re not riding your bike.

The proper way to get a paint chip fixed is to take the bike to a frame builder/painter to have the chip sanded down to the carbon fiber, then touched up.  A good technician can turn the bike around in a few days to a week and have it looking like new (obviously winter is the best time to get this done, when you don’t need said bike – assuming you get snow).

If, however, you’re like me, you can’t stand having a chip in your paint for half a season (especially when said chip is in the red paint, all the way down to the black carbon fiber)….  Interestingly, I was given this quick and painless tip from an accomplished frame builder who just happens to be a very good friend.  There is a simple solution:

Nail Polish.  In this case, red.

Simply clean the chip and apply the nail polish, being careful to stay within the borders of the chip.

It won’t be good as new but it’ll certainly get you by in a pinch and unless you know what you’re looking for, no one will know the better.  See if you can find my repair, it’s in this photo:

PS.  Be sure to lay the bike flat so the nail polish doesn’t run on you (this is why my bike is laying down).

My Little Baby Isn’t so Little Anymore.

That’s my soon to be thirteen year-old daughter on the right, riding her mom’s 56 cm rain bike.  The road bike I bought her last year is already too small for her.

We did sixteen miles in just over an hour and managed to beat the rain by about seven minutes.

As was expected, she’s much faster on the bigger bike.  

To set it up, I dropped the handlebar down, stacking the spacers above the stem.  Then I flipped the stem to take the rise out of it.  Next up was the saddle.  Lowered and leveled it.  It was set a little too far back though, so after eight miles I pushed it forward about an inch.  With that done, she was able to maintain 16-17 mph, 19-20 with a tailwind.  Not bad for a not-so-little kid.

This morning we wrapped up a perfect 7 for 7 week with a fantastic 42 miles in wonderful conditions.  62 degrees, entirely sunny and a 4 mph breeze.  They don’t make many mid-September days like this, I can tell you that.

It’s kind of nice lately… not worrying about how many miles I’m getting in during the week (I’ve dropped from 230-270 down to 170) or about the pace.  I’m just enjoying the ride and having fun.

Makes all of the hard miles over the summer worth it.  Funny how that works, eh?

An Off the Cuff Look at Understanding the “Disease Concept” of Alcoholism, One Thought at a Time. More Important, How to Know when You’re Hit…

I had a comment this morning that questioned the veracity of the line of thought and study that is the disease concept of alcoholism.  It’s a rare day that I’m so lucky as to be able to aid in one’s understanding of how people like me tick.  Unfortunately, I’m not a doctor.  I don’t even play one on TV.  I’m just Jim.  I have a day job, I ride a bike for fun, and I just happen to have been sober since 1992 – one day at a time.  For the math junkies, that’s 286 months, 8,705 days, 208,899 hours, 12,533,940 minutes, or a little more than three-quarters of a billion seconds (752,036,400).  Give or take.  Put in context, they say you need to practice something for 10,000 hours to master a field…  Imagine what one can do with 208,000 hours.

There is a reason for the length of my sobriety, as I’ve been sober for more years than I was alive when I quit.  24 years sober, I was 22 when I quit.  The whole entire State of Michigan wanted me to sober up back then, even if I didn’t.  It said, right on all of the paperwork, “The People of the State of Michigan” versus me.  With that light bit of humor, the idea of Alcoholism being a disease is a tough one to grasp and argue for doctors, let alone simpletons like you or me.  Well, technically, it would probably be simpler to accept for us normal people, but let’s not confuse this simple concept.  The root of the problem is the fact that it’s damn near impossible to “prove” one way or the other, so we’re left to arguing or debating the issue.  The reason for the length of my sobriety is that I don’t want my misery back.  I don’t want to hate myself anymore.  I don’t want to be a tornado in my friends’ and family’s lives.  The simple reason for the length of my abstinence is that it’s the engine that kills me, not the caboose.

The confusion, or at the very least, a good explanation for the confusion, is the act of drinking alcohol itself.  The act of drinking alcohol can seem, for the lack of a shorter word, a choice.  Most normal people get hung up right there and simply can’t think any further into what happens next.  “Choice” doesn’t quite cut it though, after the disease has had a chance to progress, because let me tell you something about when you’re caught in the throws of the disease and you can’t stop shaking uncontrollably once your system runs out of alcohol… unless you take a drink or two to calm your nerves down your pooched;  At that point, choice has little to do with it.  I digress.

After that first little taste enters the system, what is described as the “phenomena of craving” is touched off in the alcoholic (or aspiring alcoholic).  This is where drinking ceases being a choice and becomes a disease.  In approximately ten percent of the population (last I checked) the brain processes the molecule of alcohol differently (or any mood or mind-altering chemical).  Where most despise the “tipsy” or “high” feeling, the pleasure center in the alcoholic’s brain lights up.  Look at this as you would an allergy.

In other words, the disease part of addiction is what happens after that first sip enters the system (and to add a dimension to it, after the drinker progresses to an alcoholic)…  Now, as for that first drink being a “choice”, being a recovering alcoholic, I’d like to take a minute to explain how that “choice” works.  For me, it started out as an argument in my head.  I often like to describe this as a committee in my head that has a debate – think of it as a school board meeting without the violence.  I like to call this my “melon committee”.  This is a little simplistic, and a little misleading, but for the purposes of this post, “committee” works.  So the first thought enters my head, that I want a beer (or twelve – humorously I never craved a twelve-pack of Mountain Dew).  This touches off a discussion about whether or not this is wise.  The further I progress into the disease, the more feeble my ability to argue against a drink becomes.  I cease wanting it, and progress to needing it.  The sane, good me will lose the argument and end up slobbering drunk.  Read another way, if I allow the argument to begin in my head, I cannot win.  Again, it’s the locomotive – the engine – that got me, not the caboose.  Once I lost the argument and took that first drink, I was utterly helpless to stop adding more – the phenomenon of craving takes complete control.   The problem is that I sucked at winning the argument because drinking made me feel so good in the first place.  Back when I was in the height of my alcoholism, it was the only thing that made me feel “okay”.  Eventually drinking became my escape from the hell that was my existence as well and that compounded the problem.  Now you can call that a “choice” if you want but I’d argue until you’ve experienced what I’ve lived through, you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground.  Just sayin’.  Worse, the disease is progressive.  It gets worse until we’re down to three options:  Death, insanity or quit.  Some choice.  How do you quit the only thing you know that makes you feel okay**?!

The final part of this post, after all of that about the disease concept, is to explain how to know when you’re hit – and it’s quite simple, really.  Taking this way back, for me, to that first drink, my first time drunk at sixteen years-old, that first time I started to feel tipsy, I loved the feeling.  I felt alive.  For the first time I felt whole, for the first time ever I wasn’t afraid.  I didn’t feel “less than” everyone else.  This is how you know that you’re in trouble.  Most normal people don’t like that tipsy feeling whereas almost all alcoholics (every one that I’ve ever known, and that’s a big number) fall in love with the feeling either instantly or in short order.

If adding alcohol “fixes” what ails you in any way, you’re on a short leash.  Be careful.  What comes next is hard to live through.  Hard enough that many don’t.

Now you can call this a choice if you wish.  I respect your right to be wrong.  I wish it were that easy – I’d still be drinking if it was.

**Much of this post can be incorrectly taken as though I’d written it from the point of view that I’m some kind of victim, or I was a victim.  Read this post… I do not subscribe to the victim mentality.

Bull$#!+

My father used to have a funny fixation when it came to excrement, especially (and a bit oddly) when it came to $#!++!ng in one’s own hand.  For instance he’d say, “Put your intentions in one hand and $#!+ in the other.  Tell me which one fills first.”

One doesn’t need a degree in rocket sciencery to figure out where that one is going.  Either way, you end up with a handful of $#!+.

My dad used that little thought experiment on me quite a bit, though thankfully he wasn’t a heathen…  I never actually had to demonstrate, for posterity’s (ahem) sake, which one indeed filled up first.

Recovery was another lesson in that thought experiment.  Fortunately by that time I knew what was up.  I didn’t need my dad’s help to set it up:  Put your intention to stay sober in one hand…

When I went all chubby on myself, guess what?  Well, that one took a minute to figure out.  “I’ll never run.  I hate running, but I can’t rollerblade except down at the park…  I’ll have to find a route with decent enough roads…”

Put your intention to get fit in one hand and $#!+ in the other…  Dammit

“I should ride my bike around the block, or go for a walk, or go for a run…  Tomorrow.”

Rinse (vigorously) and repeat.

I had to keep it simple.  Either do it or don’t.  Or I can $#!+ in my hand.


I’ll pass on $#!++!ng in one hand.

Trek’s ABC’s of Awareness – When on Two Wheels, Be Seen.

I received an email from Trek covering three aspects of being seen as a cyclist.  It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but important nonetheless.

Recently, with the spate of cycling accidents that have hit the news cycle, I’ve decided to run a blinky whenever I’m not in a big group.  It does, of course, make sense to run one all of the time but let’s face it, 20 cyclists moving down the road in a double pace line is as visible as a semi-truck, just a little shorter.

That said, the second one (I’ll leave you to read it for yourself) was definitely a bit of a surprise (and a good reason for a new purchase)!

Check it out.

One Truth in Fitness is Inarguable: You’ll Never Climb a Mountain Sitting on Your Couch…

Technically, that’s a hill, not a mountain… but you get the idea.  That was 92 miles into the third century in three days and I was tired.  I wanted to quit, if only for a second or two, but I knew darn good and well what comes with quitting – I’d walked that hill the year before and that stuck with me the whole following year….  I knew I could make it up that hill under normal circumstances.

If you look at that sequence, the first photo is my perspective, the rest were taken by my wife.  The “I wanna walk” moment occurred right around the third photo, right when the grade really pitches up.  I was already in my last gear, there are no more left, and I’m wondering why I didn’t opt for a standard compact crankset.  It’s no longer about spinning, it’s just out of the saddle, grinding it out – and the fun part is we had to climb somewhere between two and three miles just to get there.

33,000 miles of training went into that fist bump in the last photo.  75 days over five years on two wheels, an average pace north of 18 mph.  Do the math and that averages out to about 57 minutes a day, each and every day, for five years (there were a lot of days off in there, I did not ride every day for five years).  While days off are important to training, those 75 days were a lot more important… one thing is certain:

Nobody ever got fit polishing the leather on a couch with their butt, including me.  Climbing that hill, riding every single foot of that 380 mile four-day ride was special, but my most satisfying fitness achievement is that I ride every day I can – I found balance between recovery, family, work and fitness.