If you’re new to recovery, in recovery, or struggling a little bit with your recovery, grab a cup of coffee and stick around a few minutes. This one isn’t short, but it gets somewhere good.
I follow a lot of recovery blogs – I’ve also unfollowed as many, or more… and the unfollows are all due to a personal flaw of mine. I find it difficult to sit back and watch someone blindly walk through their recovery and fail, only to blame that failure on a symptom of the problem. Worse is to watch someone continuously put themselves into positions that make failure inevitable, let alone more likely.
My problem is that when I decided to quit, I didn’t mess around. Even at 22 years old, barely old enough to drink legally in the USA, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, my drinking career had come to its inglorious end. That didn’t come immediately, though. I was sent to inpatient treatment at a working farm (back when they detoxed you right, I was still hungover, with alcohol in my system, when they sent me to the pigsty to shovel pig $#!+. Cold turkey, baby). The day of my intake, I fully planned on doing my time in treatment, just long enough to get out of trouble with the law, to return to my drinking. Two weeks in and I’ve still got the shakes, night sweats, nausea… That’s when I knew if I kept drinking, what was left of my existence would suck. I’m one of those lucky few whose liver can’t keep up with my stomach and melon. Based on liver enzyme readings, doctors gave me till I was 30 for my liver to completely shut down if I kept drinking as I was. Folks, dead at thirty.
So, that brings us to my decision to quit, to really quit. I was fortunate enough to not involve my ego in that decision – I didn’t care what I had to do, I just wanted the pain to stop (mental and physical, remember, I’m going cold turkey). This is the beauty of doing things the hard way, my friends. By relieving the symptoms of detox with drugs, you lessen, even cheapen, the experience of the detox. My detox lasted weeks and it was f***ing miserable. There’s no way I wanted to go through that again. The fear of reliving my detox helped to keep me sober. If it’s not as painful, it’s not as big a deterrent to picking up a drink again. Anyway, my ego… the one thing that I knew when I quit was that I knew nothing. I had no clue how to stay sober. I couldn’t make it more than a few days with my best effort, so I’d do whatever they told me to do. I’d have stood on my head in the corner if that would have done any good (though I didn’t make that public knowledge, lest someone take advantage of it for a good laugh). They handed me a book and said the instructions for how to stay sober are on the first 164 pages. Do that and you’ll have a chance, so I did.
I also didn’t have a major problem with “the whole God thing”. Let’s just say I was comfortable with not knowing anything – even at 22 when we know everything. I considered myself a “recovering Catholic” right from the beginning. I didn’t get the whole “fire and brimstone” God that I’d been taught about since I was a kid, so I took baby steps and I talked about my hang-ups… then, because I’d put my ego on the shelf, I actually listened to others who had figured that out already, and I tried to do what they did. Eventually I came up with a concept of God that worked for me – that didn’t require me to stand on a hill with a trumpet, extolling God (in fact, I often have a problem with God’s cheerleading squad – they’re just as insufferable as the tiny minority who are anti-God and loud). However you choose to look at it, I made a deal with God on the day I decided, for real, to quit drinking. I thought, “God, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give this recovery thing everything I’ve got, if you’ll help me”.
That was it, nothing more, and the weight that was removed was immeasurable. Well, immeasurable at least until I did a Fifth Step, that was so awesome I still can’t quantify it without sounding like a USA Figure Skating announcer (ridiculously over-the-top enthusiastic).
Sometime after leaving treatment, and with a full desire to continue my sobriety, I walked into a bar with my six-month coin. Actually, it wasn’t any bar, it was my bar. My stomping grounds. I can’t remember why I went in there, it wasn’t nefarious and it wasn’t so I’d be tempted – in fact, it wasn’t even at night… Anyway, I spoke with the owner for a bit, and let him know I’d quit and wouldn’t be around anymore. He said, and I can still remember this 25 years later, “Wow, I didn’t know you had a problem”. All I could think was, “Wow, you’re not very perceptive.” A short while later (a couple of months maybe) I was at a bar across the street with a good friend from school, celebrating his birthday with a local police officer friend of his… They had beers, I had a near beer. I’d been sober for going on eight months and drank that near beer without issue. Then I ordered another. I drank that one half-down and froze. I stood up, apologized and said I had to go. I left some cash on the table and walked out the door.
The infinitesimal amount of alcohol in a non-alcoholic beer triggered something in my melon that took me straight back to the day before I went to treatment. I was scared. I drove to an outpatient treatment center I’d been through a couple of years earlier and asked to see my old counselor. She saw me and I explained what had happened. She explained that I had been as close to a relapse as a person could get without actually relapsing. Let’s just say I understood. I thought I’d been doing good. After some analysis with that counselor, though, I found that I’d been falling away for almost a month and a half. I called my sponsor on the way home.
That conversation was interesting. He gave me a few pages to read from the Big Book and asked me how I parked my car, whether I pulled into a spot nose first or whether I backed in. I told him I pulled in nose first. He said I should back in to every parking spot for the next month and that he’d tell me why after the month was up.
I did. For a month I backed into every parking spot I could. At the end of the month he let me in on why. He said, Jim, I had you back into parking spots for a month because it was easy and if you weren’t willing to do something that easy without complaint, there’s no way you’d be willing to do what it takes to stay sober. It was more than fifteen years before I found a reason to walk into a bar again, and that time it was with a sober friend who also happened to be my salesman from work… and that was the last time I was in a bar.
This goes back to that “stand on my head in the corner” thing. Most people, especially nowadays, would question backing into a parking spot to stay sober. They’d say it was stupid and useless and tell me how stupid I am for requiring such a stupid thing… All the while, proving exactly why they can’t stay sober and keep relapsing.
Motherfucker, I said stand on your head in the corner and it’ll help you stay sober.
It did me. Folks, my biggest hurdle in the way of my recovery was me.
Often, the bike we own limits our ability to modify it to fit. In my case, my Trek is a 58cm standard frame. It is the exact size for my height. If I’d bought a 56cm, there would be a little more room in the cockpit for adjustment, but then the back half measurements are a little bit more finicky. Today’s modern compact frames allow for a little more adjustability in that respect…
I wrote, last week, about a change I decided to make to the Trek, where I went from a 10° stem (flipped) to a 17° stem (flipped as well), both were 90mm***. I did this to make the rain bike (or winter bike as they’re called in the UK – there’s no such thing as a road bike for the winter up in the northern Midwest of the U.S.A. – we have to use fat bikes for winter with the amount of snow we get). Point is, there are no spacers that aren’t necessary to the function of the bike below the stem – I’ve run out of spacers, so the only thing left to lower the handlebar was to go with a more aggressive stem. We’re seeing a lot more of this in the pro ranks as well, though they go a lot farther than I ever would. Where I’m at now, I’m maxed out as my flexibility goes.
Let’s do a before and after – some things to look for: The angle of the handlebar – I was able to rotate the bar forward so the bottom of the drops were parallel with the ground, and that changed how my weight was handled at the front of the bike. Because the hoods are now parallel to the ground, my weight is better centered on the bike rather than the hoods pulling me forward to the front of the bike.
Now, it’s easy to get lost in the little details, especially as the bottom of the brake levers look to be quite close to the same level in both photos… This is because I could rotate the bar up a little bit. Look at the bottom of the drops, though. In the top photo they’re clearly above the closest line. In the bottom photo they clearly split that same line in the garage door. In other words, I’ve got a couple of centimeters more drop in the handlebar by switching to the 17° stem. The bike also looks slammin’ with the new stem on there. I have to do something with the computer mount as that clearly won’t do, but that notwithstanding, the bike is much more comfortable to ride.
So, if you run out of spacers and you would like a little more drop, go with a more aggressive stem… I’m vastly happier for having finally done it. Best I can tell, because I never bothered to measure anything, I ended up with about 1″ of drop, swapping out the stems, or about 2.7 cm. Give or take.
Finally, I have one little, exceptionally important tip; You don’t have to go it alone on this change if you don’t know exactly what you want. Ask if you can borrow a used stem in the length and rise you want at your local shop to try. Being the cycling geek I am, I knew exactly what I wanted. If you don’t, your local shop will work with you. Just know this: If you bum a stem from the local shop, only to turn around and order what you want online, you are, in cycling parlance, what is called a twatwaffle. If we were to use non-cycling parlance, we would say snake shit is higher than you. Actually, check that, monkeys fling you… Get it?
If you’re going to buy on the net, at least do the honorable thing and order what you think you want and try it. If you don’t like what you got, send it back and try another size/rise.
***My old flipped 10° stem and the new flipped 17° were both 90mm. The 17° stem increases the reach by more than a few millimeters when you flip it (it decreases the reach when you use it right-side-up. Be careful here, especially if you’re going from a 6° to a 17… The difference in reach can be significant and you might need a shorter stem to keep your cockpit reach comfortable.
It’s a rare day in February I’m going to ride twice in one day. In fact, yesterday very well could have been my first ever. For February. Just want to be clear…
It was supposed to be a perfect morning for a ride. Wait, back it up… It was a perfect morning for a ride. Sun, mild temp and minor breeze. Where that got messed up was the inch of snow that was dropped on the roads the night before. That turned into slop and ice overnight with the temp hoovering around freezing.
I cancelled the ride and Mrs. Bgddy and I put our miles in on the trainer around 10 a.m. It started warming up just about the time we were wrapping up, but it was gnarly wet out. Without an Ass-saver there was no way.
Around noon, any hint of a cloud moved off – blue sky, sunshine, and the temp warming up to the low 40’s… there’s just no way I can pass that up. The only question in my mind was, Trek or gravel bike?
With the new stem and cockpit on the Trek, I
wanted had to try it out on the road.
Well, the feel of the new set-up was fantastic. The extra seven degrees of drop to the stem was exactly what I’d hoped for. I am fairly certain if I’d gone with a 25° stem it would have been too much.
My average speed wasn’t all that impressive, actually it was quite slow, but for this early in the season and for the second ride in a day, I can live with it. I was a little bummed that I had to ride solo, but better to ride solo than not at all.
And with that, it’ll be back on the trainer tonight. Nice temps but rain that’s supposed to be measurable in “inches” will be enough to keep me inside. The rain is good news, though – it’ll wash the roads off.
For my buddy, Steve… check out the rear wheel in the photo above… Cheap rear wheel for the trainer – the rear wheel that matches the front has a new tire on it and is waiting to be swapped out in the event I can take it outdoors in the near future. No changing tires, just wheels and a small adjustment of the rear derailleur to get everything lined up right. Twenty seconds instead of five minutes.
We waited till noon to ride, to give it a chance warm up. Freezing isn’t terrible but it was supposed to warm up a bit. Sadly, the weather rarely listens to the Weather Channel.
We rolled out, just my wife, Chuck and me, into a freaking gnarly cross-headwind. Two miles later and we were into the teeth of it. Chuck said, 30 seconds after making the turn, “What are we doin’ out here?” I knew why, of course, but the idea of staying out there still seemed a little stupid. Three miles in and we were questioning our sanity. Not good, because we’re a hearty people in Michigan…
Four miles, well maybe five, and we were starting to warm up a little and from that point, even though we were into the wind for another seven miles, I didn’t care a bit… even in temps below freezing and the wind whipping a little bit, it was still better than the trainer. I had my trademark smile on and it felt fantastic.
If you’ve ever spent an inordinate amount of time on a trainer, you’re aware that there’s a period of adjustment when you finally hit pavement – it almost feels like you’re riding with squishy tires because your balance is so far off. I love that feeling, if it is a little disconcerting at first. I looked down at my rear tire more than once and smiled each time.
I stopped looking at my computer somewhere around nine miles. I was smack in the middle of one of those “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m outside on my bike, I’m so happy“ vibes. I get them a lot, they’re why I ride a bike, but nothing beats those “beginning of the season – I’m finally free” feelings. We rolled into Chuck’s subdivision barely shy of 24 miles. By the time we hit his driveway it was 24.02 miles.
We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out. I hadn’t even changed out of my cycling clothes and I was already looking forward to today’s ride… Unfortunately, this being Michigan, we got a couple of inches of snow last night. There’s a chance that it’ll burn off this afternoon so all we can do is wait and see if we’ll ride or not. The temp is supposed to be favorable and it’s supposed to be sunny – there’s a chance.
The guys at GCN recently put out a fair video that has to do with fixing four bad habits that detract from one’s “pro” look on a bike. The video has nothing to do with the simple things that don’t matter, like “buy a better kit”. The tips in the video are simple, fairly obvious, and definitely wise to correct if you make those mistakes… Where I’ll diverge a bit is with the whole “pro” thing.
My friends, I’m pushing 50. Pro would have been long, long ago, had I even been into cycling. Not to mention, and this is the important part, you say “pro” and a fair group of cyclists get pissy, instantly. So where they say “pro”, let’s just say “comfortable and competent” and take the stringy upper body and ridiculous lower right out of the equation – because you’re not that anyway.
I can add a little bit to their video, as I had to deal with correcting one or two of those bad habits. First, was cadence. Spin too fast for your body to be still and you will look hilarious. On the other hand, try to push too big a gear at too slow a cadence and you’re going to look off as well (you’re also going to be working a lot harder than you have to – definitely harder than everyone else you’re riding with). Runners tend to be mashers with a slow cadence, and that’s what I was when I bought my first bike. On the trainer was where I learned to evolve from masher to cyclist and learning to cruise comfortably at a 90 rpm cadence was one of the best things I did for myself as a cyclist (if you don’t know why a 90 cadence is so important, I do explain that in great detail here).
Second was rocking the bike on a climb. There is a balance that has to be achieved here. The idea is, as they say in the video, is to be loose and relaxed. Too rigid and you waste energy and look like you have a stick where sticks don’t belong. Too loose and you look exceptionally goofy. There’s a balance and it’s closer to rigid than loose.
Those out of the way, the important part was how I chose to evolve into a comfortable and competent cyclist… most of my major gains in form were practiced on the trainer. While the trainer is thought of as horribly boring and terrible, it’s the best thing I’ve found for fixing form problems and locking in good habits.
As for riding in a group, that’ll be for another post – and it’s about that time. Happy cycling my friends.
2018’s Cycling Season (perhaps I should clarify, outdoor cycling season) is just around the corner. The weather report is finally coming around. After more than a foot of snow last weekend we hit 43° (9C) yesterday and it’s raining today with a high expected in the same range. It should be warm enough to melt most of the snow and the rain will wash off the roads. We’re looking at temps above freezing for the weekend. Saturday will be a little tricky, but Sunday looks fantastic.
So with that, I’ll probably head out once it has a chance to warm up on Saturday (it’s going to be a minute, low temp for the morning is shown at about 10° (-12C), and that’s just a bit too cold for my blood. It’s supposed to warm up to a little better than freezing though, so we’ll see how it goes.
One thing is for certain, my friends and I are ready to get outside. We’ve had enough of being cooped up. The trainer’s good for maintaining fitness when it’s nasty outside but it sure does get old by the end of the winter – especially as rough as this one was.
I walk into the gas station for a cup of coffee to sip on for the trip to the office… and there it sits, looming in the corner, whispering sweet nothings at me – it’s the donut display.
Of course it’s not whispering anything to me, the donut display case, because donut display cases don’t whisper. They don’t talk, they don’t wink, they don’t do anything humans do. They just sit there and, with those beautiful rolled and deep-fried pieces of sugar-coated chunks of goodness, look good.
The whispering and temptation are all in my melon.
And you’d think, after all of this time, after all of the years, the thousands of posts, millions of words, 45,259 miles, the diets to stay at my riding weight… you’d think it’d get easier, right?
But do you think it’s easier or harder to walk by the donut display in the morning without reaching in and grabbing a cruller after all of that? At this point, who really cares? It is what it is.
As I get older, it’s almost comical how much more careful I have to be with my diet – it also doesn’t help that my daughter and I have become Food Network junkies and actually try recipes now… Eating boring food isn’t such a big deal, but when food becomes vibrant, excellent, even restaurant quality at times… well, pushing away from the table becomes a little trickier – especially when you take into account my ridiculously active lifestyle.
Still, as the saying goes, “you gotta dance with the chick who brung ya” (actually it’s a bit more crass than that, but you get the idea).
Things could be worse, though. Taken in context, this little problem isn’t even a blip on the screen. I’ll walk into the gas station this morning, plop my buck on the counter and walk out with my cup of coffee – and maybe I’ll flip the bird to that donut display. One thing is for certain, I’ll be walking out without a cruller.
No matter how crazy life is, mine is still really awesome, and being fat would make it suck a whole lot. It doesn’t get any easier, I just have more to lose…