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Monthly Archives: March 2018

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Rockin’ out some decent Springtime Miles… Sans Springtime.

I have been out but once this year without two layers of tights, three layers up top. Ski gloves, neck gaiter, hat, foot covers, wool socks… the whole ball of wax has been employed just to get off of the trainer and out the door.

In the last ten days, with two days off for crappy weather, I’ve managed to hammer out 294 miles, all outside. They’ve been slow miles, relatively for us, with the cold – nothing saps the speed out of me like freezing temperatures.

Tuesday was one of those days off, rain all day long and I went to see the Redwings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins at the new Little Caesar’s Arena. That they won was awesome because the Wings aren’t exactly good this year.

Going to the game was a great excuse because I needed a day off. I actually needed a day off. I was freaking wrecked.

Since, it was Venge Day on Wednesday, trainer on Thursday, and a ride on the tandem yesterday.

We were supposed to be rained out today but we’re going to be able to sneak a ride in before the rain starts – and it’s actually going to be above freezing for once! Woohoo!

So, with today being the last day of March, even though the month has been crap for cycling, I’m going to beat last year’s 638 March miles by more than 25 miles… It’s a great start for the new season, no doubt about it.

Of course, I don’t have many photos to document the first month of the season… Taking a photo while rolling at 22 mph is hard enough without dealing with multiple layers of clothes.

Actually, if there was a photo from this season that accurately portrayed the season so far, it would be this:

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When does Recovery Begin? A Dangerous Precedent is Being Set right under Your Nose… Or maybe it’s just Me

Before we even get started down this road, let me make one thing very clear: I do not represent any Twelve Step Program in any way shape or form. The following post will be my own personal experience, strength and hope. The following will be how I see things. As the program goes, it has no dog in any fight. It neither opposes nor endorses any cause. Period. End of story. If you’re looking for AA or NA’s opinion on when recovery begins, don’t bother reading any further because this won’t be it. I am recovery’s Don Quixote, and evidence based recovery is my windmill. You have been trigger (heh) warned.

I’m a little hardcore and old-school about recovery. Snake oil salesmen have been around for a long time so I’m a little more than skeptical when a new drug is introduced that will revolutionize recovery and put recovery in the hands of those who really don’t want to give up their escape mechanism. I am also weary of people in the new U.S. recovery industry who aren’t actually in recovery… Some are good but are missing one important understanding, well two. First is why we use in the first place. The second is why we can’t use anything once we’ve transitioned from recreational alcohol/drug use alcoholic/addict. Once a pickle, we don’t go back to being a cucumber. If you can’t understand the why and the addict, prescribing and antidote is damn near impossible, because the disease isn’t only medical. It’s physical and mental.

Back in the good old days, before “evidence based recovery” (a new term that offers no evidence that it actually works, it’s a term used to describe anything other than a Twelve Step Program or anything devoid of a “faith based” recovery that simply makes the alternative sound legitimate) getting clean or sober was simple, or relatively so… You went to AA meetings, whether pushed to do so by the courts or on one’s own volition, you sobered up and went on to great things… or you found God at church… or you did it white knuckled on your own… Either way, you put down drugs and alcohol and lived a different life. Sobriety began when you ceased taking drugs or alcohol. Recovery began when you ceased taking drugs or alcohol and did something to return to normalcy as the definition of recovery suggests.

Then came treatment centers that would combine sedatives, drugs and an introduction to a Twelve Step program. Then Narcotics Anonymous, because Alcoholics Anonymous was admittedly lacking when it came to handling drug addicts. Either way, the entire system pushed everyone into AA or NA and for the 15% of our population who don’t believe in some kind of Higher Power or God, this was problematic. This isn’t to say neither program required belief in a Higher Power, only fools and knaves truly believe that (in fairness, there are some members who can be rather insistent and silly about one’s turn to faith). In the end, ignorance won the day and a movement away from the volunteer based program of recovery began to give way to the new pay-based recovery handed down by professionals with loads of letters after their name that only they understand.

This wasn’t all bad. We of AA and NA tended to deal with a lot of crazy, and now that crazy is getting farmed out to institutions.

Unfortunately, with institutions comes a need to show results… and that comes with problems.

Old school AA and NA didn’t care about results the same way a government agency does. We offered a way of life, either you accepted it or you didn’t. Either way, we aren’t getting paid to make a person recover so we wouldn’t be held responsible for their failure to actually quit, it was all up to choice. Lawyers would send their clients to meetings to show the court their client really cared and felt sorry for their misdeed(s). Judges would sentence small-time offenders to meetings so they could be turned on to a new way of life… And we accepted all of them (in fact, I was one of those myself). We offered them what we were so freely given and helped save millions from their addiction in the process. We also allowed those who were just there to have their court paper signed to join in. It was our understanding that, while they were only there to get their butt out of trouble, at least we were planting a seed that let them know where they could go when they were truly ready to quit using their drug of choice. We let them go on their way, hoping they’d be back another day.

Institutions don’t work that way. Institutions want results. Studies were done and estimates given referring to AA and NA’s success rates. Of everyone who walks through a door to an AA meeting, I’ve heard as few as 3 to 5% make one year of real sobriety. Now, you may think that bad, but hang on because that number is skewed and I’ll show you how. Of those 3% who make one year, 85% make it to five years. How could that be?

Almost all of those who don’t have a desire to sober up leave before the first year.

If you based the numbers on those who actually work the program and the steps, the success rate is closer to a 98% success rate. In 25 years sober, I’ve only seen one person fail who was thoroughly following the path. One. And in his case, he was a mental patient with a bi-polar diagnosis and he refused to properly take his prescribed medication. He literally blew up his heart with a cocktail of medication and drugs. His name was Jeff, and I still miss him (he passed more than 15 years ago). What is missing in the numbers is weeding out those who refuse to “thoroughly follow the path”. I thoroughly follow the path, so I make it. Others I work with choose not to, so they don’t. It’s not rocket science.

Now, let’s get to the real topic in the Title, because this post has been getting away from me a little bit with basic history… When does recovery actually begin?

Up until recently, recovery’s definition was quite simple. It followed the dictionary definition of recovery: “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength”. Using drugs and alcohol, paging Captain Obvious, to cope with life is not normal. Therefore it’s quite simple to make the leap that one is not “recovering” until one is off meds (though this tends to change with mental patients who do need medication regularly, approximately 10% of those who are given psychotherapeutic meds – unfortunately, 90% of the 90% think they belong in the 10% but let’s not get lost again).

Enter the new “evidence based” recovery establishment. They want results, no matter how bad they are…

I recently got into an interesting discussion with a blogging counselor who insists that even though an addict is on psychotropic medication (methadone) for heroin addiction, that person should be considered to be “in recovery”. I disagree, but only with certain parts of the argument. I believe in honesty (it’s a core tenet of recovery – in fact, nothing is more important to recovery than honesty). A person who is on blocking medication, or medication that blocks the body’s ability to respond to opiates, is definitely in recovery (as long as they’re abstaining from any other drug use and working to return to a normal existence). Methadone is a different story, though. Methadone is a watered down version of heroin or morphine. Anyone on methadone, or any other “watered down” version of a drug that will get one high, can’t be in recovery by definition. Relying on drugs is not a return to normalcy.

It would be like claiming you’re in recovery because you’ve switched from Budweiser to Bud Light or switched from whiskey to beer. How about the much-maligned “marijuana maintenance program”? Can’t drink alcohol? Get high on pot instead! Bam, you’re in recovery! Preposterous as that may seem, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

And thus is begun the war on reality to claim results where results don’t exist. The counselor, in response to my comment wrote that judging a person’s path to recovery is bad and will make that person feel bad. We should instead celebrate that the person is no longer “a menace to society” or they may even be a “productive member of society” so they should be considered “in recovery”. And therein lies the rub.

A person getting high is not in recovery. A person who still has to get high likely won’t address the underlying cause(s) of their addiction and will therefore continue to try to game the system, manipulate people, lie, cheat, steal, and “shoot moves” as we say. That is not now, nor should it ever be, considered normal.

I get that we don’t want to be Judgey McJudgipantses, but we have to be honest. Recovery starts when the path to normalcy is chosen. If someone wants to pay a pro Tens of Thousands of Dollars to walk that path, or they want to pay a buck a meeting makes no never mind to me, as long as we’re walking the path. This is why I’m always leery of people who aren’t in recovery becoming counselors and treatment center managers. If you haven’t walked in my shoes, it’s almost impossible for you to grasp the simplest of concepts pertaining to us. They may be book-smart, but they have no idea how low I’ll go for a fix. We are a hopeless lot that the medical community shunned as impossible to help for thousands of years. The reason we’re helpless is that when one drop hits enters our system, we need more. When normal people get a buzz, they don’t like the feeling and want to stop.

For a person like me, I feel whole again. I feel alive. I feel at peace… Artificially. When I feel that good, more of whatever I’m using should make me feel even better!

You can’t fix that with a pill, and you certainly can’t stop that freight train with a watered down potato gun version of the drug that causes that feeling. Twenty-five years in recovery, one drop passes my lips and I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the consequences. One drop. Because it’s not the alcohol that’s the problem. It’s that I can’t win the debate in my head that wants more.

I am a two-fisted drunken loser on a daily reprieve from my addiction and my name is Jim. My addiction is real. My addiction is sitting back in the corner of my mind doing sit-ups and push-ups and pull-ups, just waiting for me to make a mistake… and you can’t fix that with a pill.

Guess what Day it is, guess what Day it IS!!!

Venge Day!!!

That’s right, friends. Every year, after the roads are cleansed with a decent rain and the temp warms up to “leg warmers and long sleeve jersey”, with some sun, I celebrate Venge Day; The first glorious day of the new cycling season nice enough to ride the Venge.

Mmmm, I do love the “A” bike.

We had four for the evening’s festivities, clipped in and rolling shortly after five o’clock. The first three-quarters of a mile was tame. Everything after that, Katie bar the door… it was dėjá vu all over again. And I was ready. That bike is pure, unadulterated speed in the form of a bicycle. There’s no doubt my Trek is a great bike, but the Specialized is something special.

We’d been turning in times between 16.5 – 17.5 mph for the last month, and working hard to do it in the cold. Last night’s average was 19, and we had to slow up a couple of times to let guys catch up.

Every year I fall into a different variation of the same mental trap…  We get into March and it’s still cold enough to have an affect on speed.  We turn in a bunch of 16-18 mph averages and I get to thinking this is finally the year everything catches up to me and I’m going to start slowing down.  Then Venge Day hits, a 19 mph average is easy, and everything comes back to me.  It’s just the cold.  Surprising how much of an impact it has on the speed of a ride, every year.  It’s not that I don’t know it’s coming, I just can’t help but thinking maybe I lost a step.  I have to tell you, finding out I didn’t is exceptionally gratifying.

It was a perfect Venge Day 2018.  More later.

What does a Sober Person do when the Wheels fall off?

If the wheels don’t fall off in life every now and again, you’re not taking enough good risks.

It happens.

Call your sponsor, go to a meeting or twelve, and don’t drink.  You put the wheels back on…

Roll on.

Cycling in the Cold? Ditch the Hat and try some Earmuffs… Seriously.

My buddy, Mike brought over a pair of earmuffs for me to try on Saturday, exactly like the pair he wears. I haven’t struggled with a cold dome, I’ve got some decent hats, but he wanted me to try out what he wears.

I doubt I’ll ever go back to hats under the helmet.  Cycling caps, yes, to keep the cold and wind off of my dome, but I’ve got a couple of hats that are going to be washed several times and donated to a charity…

The earmuffs, or “ear warmers” as they’re now referred to because I assume “earmuffs” isn’t cool enough anymore, Mike brought over are Degrees ear warmers by 180s and they’re awesome, and shockingly good at letting traffic noise in while keeping the ears warm.

Degrees180s_Earmuffs.jpg

They’re not cheap, even on Amazon they’re $22, but in my humble opinion they’re worth it. I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back to hats to keep my head warm. It was only 24° when we rolled Sunday morning, with a “feels like” temp in the mid-teens and I was fairly comfortable starting out with just the ear warmers and a cycling cap – I was exceptionally snug once we got rolling.

What I really liked was the way they let in traffic noise. One would likely expect that earmuffs would block out road noise (I did), but these don’t.  Not only could I hear perfectly well, I can hear better with them on.

So, if you’re not exactly thrilled at wearing hats to keep your ears warm, give Degrees by 180s earmuffs (warmers) a try – I’ve got the fleece pair. They’re adjustable, too.

One word review:  Fantastic.

A Photographical Demonstration of How to (and more important, NOT TO) Wear a Bicycle Helmet…

With the beginning of cycling season approaching in the northern hemisphere, I figured I’d do my part to A) spread the word for noobs on how one is supposed wear a cycling helmet and B) to give seasoned cyclists a laugh….

First, lets get one thing straight: I don’t care if you wear a helmet or not. It’s your melon, do as you please. I wear one, every single time I throw a leg over a top tube. I’m not getting into a debate about whether or not one should wear a helmet. On one hand, I find it ridiculous that governments mandate their usage. On the other, that’s because I think you’re nuts not to, but whatever. On a third hand (heh), what I think matters very little to everyone except me and my immediate family.

That said, most noobs need to know there are right and wrong ways to wear a helmet.

There are wrong ways:

MtnMelonCover

Notice the strap is loose and the helmet is about two sizes too big. That’s a noob me. About eight weeks into riding a bike for the first time since I was a kid, and my first cycling helmet ever) – I can’t hardly call me a cyclist yet, as cyclists generally wear a shirt or jersey of some kind. Wearing a helmet like that is fine, just as long as you don’t fall. If, on the other hand, you do fall, you may as well not be wearing one. There are more egregious errors than mine, though…

bike_kiss

First up is no helmet. While a helmet really wouldn’t have helped much in the accident shown in the photo above, I doubt that guy was riding down the trail thinking, Wow, dude… I’m hungry. I think I’ll eat me some tire… Nom nom nom nom… The point is, a helmet is a lot like an American’s Second Amendment right – better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. It’s gotta make you wonder what he hit, too. I used a funny photo to depict the silliness of not wearing a helmet. I have another, far darker and difficult to disremember. A guy laying on a hospital bed waiting to get an 8″ long gash on the top of his head, extending down to his forehead, stitched up. It’s nasty.

The backwards brain bucket… I’ve actually seen this in real life, and more than once. Good God.

Now, we’ve dealt with the humorous, obviously wrong ways to wear a helmet, let’s take a serious look at how to really wear a brain bucket….

Okay, so the idea is this: Take two fingers, your pointer and the middle finger and place them starting just above the bridge of your nose, or right on the bridge (My personal preference is for the latter – it tends to look better). Your helmet should touch the top finger of the two. The temptation is to wear the helmet a little farther up the forehead, like so:

BontDomeCoverI went back in the archive for that one, and that photo was taken after 100 miles, after I’d already pushed the helmet up after hopping off the bike but it serves the purpose, you don’t want to wear the helmet that high on the forehead. Look at the straps, also. Tight to the face, but not too snug. The idea is to be able to tuck two fingers between the strap and chin, but three starts to choke you. That’s the proper “tight”.

As a final note, helmets do come in sizes.  S/M/L/XL or a combination of those (L/XL)…  Pick the right one for your melon, and it helps to know your hat size.  I’m a 7-1/4 US or 58cm.  I wear a medium helmet in most brands.  After that first helmet debacle above, where I chose a color more than a size, I wised up.  For the really new noobs, if you don’t see the right color and size at your local shop, chances are they can order the right one.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

…and the Cold Hangs around like a Gnarly, Stale Fart

I could go on about farting all day, because farts are funny… right up till you start talking about this extended freaking winter we’ve been dealing with here in the northern Midwest. Of course, it could be worse, say New York or Boston?

We hammered out almost 39 miles yesterday morning. The temp didn’t rise above freezing until the last ten miles. Normal temps, we oughta be riding around in leg warmers and arm warmers, not two layers for the legs, three for the chest, neck gaiter, hat, ski gloves… You get the freaking idea.

There is a plus side to this stupid weather, though. I washed my car more than a week ago. It’s still clean. The sun has been awesome around here – and that’s just as rare as all of this stupid cold.

On the plus-side of the cold I figured out something big with how I’m going to handle my kit from now on.  First, I picked up a nice Specialized wind-proof jacket on clearance a few weeks ago (normally $150, paid $52) and I’ve been big into the windproof outer layers for the last couple of months.  Normally, I’d wear a tight Under Armour base layer, then a thermal long-sleeve jersey and the rain/wind jacket.  That was okay down to 25 degrees but by the end of the ride I’d end up a little sweaty and cold – the little bit of sweat was sucking the heat out of me.  So I opted instead for a standard jersey, a looser running base layer, the thermal long-sleeve and then the rain/wind jacket.  What I ended up doing, without really knowing it, was layering wicking layer over wicking layer.

I wouldn’t classify what I’ve got as “warm” (in 24° or -4C temps) but it’s definitely comfortable enough that I don’t mind the cold as much.

That said, it’s going to be another rough morning.  Temps in the low 20’s, wind out of the east (curse you east wind).  It still beats the trainer.  By a lot.