There once was a time I was dying. Not figuratively, mind you. My liver was almost shot, I was starting to take on that lovely yellow hue to my skin, and I didn’t much want to live anyway. I picked out my viaduct more than once and woke up just before smashing into a tree once. I looked back on that particular day with regret. Not because I was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel, but because I woke up and missed the tree. I didn’t finish it because I was a wuss. I was scared. I didn’t want it to hurt.
Those days are long gone.
I went for a checkup last night. The doctor actually used the word, “Perfect” when describing my health. Blood pressure, 120/78. Heart rate 46 bpm. Lung capacity is obviously stellar.
This is my tale of two lives.
One spent boozing, smoking and doing dope, with nothing to show for my existence, and miserable. The other spent sober, married, a father, running, cycling, and happy. The effects of my misspent youth are gone. My liver is functioning as it was intended, my lung function is vastly better than average, and most important, my mental status is fantastic.
It’s been a lot of years since I put down the bottle but one thing is certain:
I’m healthier, by every measure there is, at 48 than I was at 22, and for that I am grateful.
When I woke up yesterday morning, I was pretty sure I was riding a 100k. My buddy, Mike is in the middle of his triumphant return from a broken ass and he was set to ride with us again. The important part in that first sentence was the K.
Unfortunately, Friday’s 42 miles and Saturday’s 46 miles were too much for Mike’s hurtin’ heinie and he called to let me know he wouldn’t be there for the big 100k weekend finale.
That decision had ramifications for me. I was okay with 100 miles (161km), but I didn’t need the miles, I was already over the 1,000 mile mark for July by 19 miles. That, and I really like 100k rides. The 100 mile ride, while excellently, arrogantly American (I’ll see your 100k and raise you another 61), I really enjoy having something left in the tank after a ride. I don’t ride in a manner conducive to staying vertical after a full century. When I’m done, I need a little nappy.
I’ll skip the BS (back story). 100 miles it was. The weather was perfect. A cool start, low 60’s (16 C), no wind and impossibly sunny. Our group was ten deep (including my wife) and after a first warm-up mile, it was on.
I spent the first ten miles trying to convince myself I had another ninety-some miles left in me. It wasn’t going well. Twenty miles in and I was starting to feel it. Thirty in and we were pulling up to our first stop. Banana downed, other stopping issues tended to and we were rolling again. My wife and two others cut for the metric century, seven of us committed to the full century.
Fifty miles in and I was looking forward to lunch at the Hemlock McDonald’s. Having eaten and had an ice cold Coke, we rolled out. The legs were feeling it, though. Getting them moving again sucked. We were better than halfway there, though.
I didn’t think about mileage till we hit 70, and it was time to stop at a park in Chesaning. Only thirty to go. “I can do that standing on my head”, I thought. Just an hour and a half left. Water bottles were filled, I downed a quick banana, facilities were used, and we rolled out. That stop was much needed. Once I got my legs rolling again, I felt spectacular. We kept the pace north of 20-mph the rest of the way.
Members in our little rabble were starting to tire out about mile 85 but I was feeling surprisingly good. We were on the home stretch with just three miles to go and I took my final turn up front. I kept the speed between 21 and 22 mph, but as we approached the finish, I started ramping the speed up. We had the final City Limits sign to contend and even though I’d been up front for the last two miles, I wanted to try to give it a run from the front. We crested a little hill that I thought was supposed to be the last incline before the finish and I saw another – that double-hump gets me every year. I was almost out of gas but I knew if I went back I wouldn’t recover in time for the sign so I just kept my legs moving.
Over the crest of the second tiny incline and it was downhill to the City Limits sign. I picked up the pace, from 23-24 mph to 26. With a few hundred yards left, I launched and took the sign before pulling into the driveway of the fella who puts the ride on every year.
I was well and truly spent. I’d had enough.
I ended up with 279 miles on the week, and dinner was particularly yummy. And as one would expect, my nap was glorious.
My wife is my best friend, there’s no question. On the other hand, in the last seven years or so, I’ve spent a lot of hours on the road with my buddy, Mike. He and I are cyclists cut from the same cloth, and it shows when we ride together. We have a lot of fun.
Mike and I are the cycling equivalent of Goose and Maverick in Top Gun. We’ll ride without the other. We won’t like it as much, but we’d do it.
Three weeks ago, he broke his ass when our group was hit by a deer. According to what I’ve heard, because I was up front and missed everything, I didn’t know how he could have possibly fallen hard enough to break his sacrum (just above the tailbone)… He went over the back of the bike and landed on his ass. At that old fart’s age, being as brittle as old farts tend to be, it makes sense, falling from that height.
He started riding, gingerly, after three weeks on the couch, the beginning of the week. He rode with our small group Friday morning, then again yesterday. We did 38 miles on Friday with an average of 18.8-mph. Yesterday’s ride was 42 miles at 18. My buddy is back.
I had a good time riding without him, but I didn’t like it as much. Having him back, cycling is better. Even if he is a dinosaur. At least he’s a fast dinosaur.
All of the pros are riding the 11-28 cassette nowadays, especially when things get vertical. Flat stages, I’d imagine they stick with a corncob, but I don’t have my own mechanic and a supply of anything I want as gearing goes, so it’s a little bit of trial and error… by fire for me when I put a cassette on the bike(s). I know for a fact, I don’t need a corncob, though.
So I decided to put a ten speed 11-28 on my bikes, both the Venge and the Trek. The following post is my experience, so that you might save some headache, consternation, and money. And don’t think the 11 speed will bail you out (as the extra gear usually helps – not in this case).
I’ve ridden, for as long as I can remember, an 11-26 cassette on the Venge and an 11-25 on the Trek (keeping in mind the Trek was a triple about four weeks ago). I’ve always enjoyed the 11-26 because the gears seemed tight enough that I could pick a decent cadence and pace to match the group I was riding with. The jump in teeth between gears, worked. The thinking went, if 11-26 is good, that extra oomph of the 28 will really help in the hills when I take the Venge climbing. Not only that, on the Trek, with it’s compact crank, well I’ll be able to climb anything with a 34/28 front to back combo.
It was sound thinking. Or at least the thinking made sense at the time.
Then came my first ride on the Venge with the 52/36 pro compact on the front and the 11-28 cassette on the back… I immediately knew I had a problem.
Here’s the gearing for the 11-26, then the 11-28:
The 11/26 includes: 11,12,13,14,15,17,19,21,23,26
The 11/28 includes: 11,12,13,14,15,17,19,22,25,28
The 11 sp 11-28 is as follows: 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,19,22,25,28 Same top end gap.
If you haven’t seen the flaw yet, look at it this way; each tooth increase in the cassette, from one gear to the next, represents 5 rpm on a 52 tooth crank. So the 52/14 will spin 5 rpm slower than the 52/15 at the same speed. The 1 tooth increase in cassette cogs allows the rider to perfectly tailor their cadence to the speed they’re going. On the other hand, you won’t get any good climbing gears pushing an 11-23 cassette. So we have a balance to strike. To do that, we jump two, and even three teeth at a time as the gears get bigger. On the 11-26 cassette, only the last gear jumps three teeth. On the 11-28, the last four cogs jump three teeth. So if a one tooth jump is five RPM, two is ten RPM, three would be a difference of fifteen RPM between gears. Getting right to the punch, fifteen RPM between the top gears is no bueno.
See, I like to cruise right around 19-21 mph when I’m by myself. With the 11-28 cassette I’ve got an 18-1/2 mph gear and a 22 mph gear. One is too easy and the other is too hard. Simply, there’s a big hole between my normal favorite cruising gears.
Where I get into trouble is the difference between the two cassettes for just three gears. Observe:
19,21,23 vs. 19,22,25
All is not lost! There is hope for the 52/36 pro compact!
So this is where Mrs. Bgddy isn’t going to be a happy camper… My normal 20 mph cruising gear is the 21. 22 is too easy and 19 is just a touch harder than I’m used to. What will happen is I’ll spend a lot more time in the 19 until I become used to cruising in that gear. This will mean two things: I’ll be stronger and faster. My wife likes me right where I’m at.
This is where the Trek comes in with the 50/34 compact crank, though. Dropping two teeth on the front chainring will mean that instead of messing around with the 19 and 22 teeth cogs, I’ll drop a couple of gears – the normal cruising gears will be the 17t and 19t cogs. That two tooth jump is a little easier to manage.
So that’s how gear selection works on the road. Just something to consider.
Now, I can make this interesting, if a little geeky. I’ll try to keep the exercise and math short. I’m taking the Trek on DALMAC this year and we’ve got one whopping hard hill to climb 90 miles into the third day. We’ll climb 2-3% for three miles before we hit the 18+% monster. I took my Trek up that way earlier this year, when it was still a triple, and managed the climb easily with a gear left in the bank.
When I hit that hill again, it’ll be a compact double with a bigger cassette. If I choose too easy a gear, climbing the hill will blow my lungs up (definitely not literally). On the other hand, too hard a gear on an 18% pitch and you’re pooched.
Well, I have my answer before it ever became a problem. I go to Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator webpage and enter in the old gearing, crank length, tire size/width and hit calculate. Then I do the same for the new gearing:
So I thought, up until about two minutes ago, that I was riding an 11-25 cassette on the Trek when it was a 9sp. It may have been a 26. Anyway, that’s inconsequential. I climbed “The Wall” as they call it, in the 30/23 gear and made it up just fine. The last gear was a little too easy. If I look at the 34 tooth chainring on the right, all I have to do is match up the closest speed to the 30/23 combo and I know which gear I’ll need: 34/25. The second to the last gear should do it. 9.2-mph vs. 9.6.
There’s a problem, though, that I have to account for, but there will be a mitigating factor as well. First, the problem: I’ll be on tired legs. Third century in three days, 90 miles into the third day, that hill SUCKS. That would lead me to believe the last gear might be necessary for the climb. On the other hand, I’m in much better shape today than I was when I last did the climb more towards the beginning of the season in early to mid-May. In other words, meh. 34/25 oughta do just fine.
The point is, and where my experience can benefit the more fearful in all things cycling; I can research most of the fear out of the equation if I just know what I’m doing. I’ll know exactly which gear to push come DALMAC, no fear necessary.
As the disclaimer on the left reads, this post will be in flyover country English. We don’t worry much about self-esteem in life and death matters. Save the life first, then f*** with self-worth when you’re not in the process of dyin’, I always say.
Demi Lovato, before she relapsed, became convinced that abstinence isn’t the only way to recover from addiction. She got the idea that there’s a such thing as “controlled use” of some other substance than her substance(s) of choice.
The marijuana maintenance people are big on this myth, touting some mythical medicinal value beyond just getting high. Stupid is as stupid does. And an addict believing that there’s a such thing as controlled use of a different substance is simply stupid, ignorant, or both. Let’s have a little honesty and call it what it is.
Demi’s downfall was pain pills. She decided, because she never had a problem with alcohol, that she’d control booze. She celebrated six years of actual sobriety (according to reports) in March. It only took her five months to wind up overdosed on drugs. I guess that didn’t work out too well for her. I’m surprised she made it that long. I wouldn’t – I’d make it maybe a week or two before I was drunk in a ditch.
There’s no such thing as “controlled use” for an addict. And while we’re on that honesty kick, look at “controlled use” as it really is. You’re not trying to control use if you’re already an addict, you’re trying to “control abuse”. When you look at it in the proper context, “controlled abuse” is silly. As addicts, we’ve given up on control long ago!
There are different ways to find recovery. A few even work. There is no such thing as controlling addiction, by it’s very nature and definition. None. If someone tells you it’s possible, listen for the next sentence. They’ll be shilling something. Counseling, coaching, “my new book”… You, on the other hand, all you’ll get with the lie is the pain of trying to sober or clean up again. Minus the money you spent on fool’s gold.
I was on my Trek last evening after a full day of work, cruising down the road, the concerns of the day in the background for a short time. I wasn’t riding particularly fast, in fact I was into a bit of a headwind. I felt good, and thankful for recovery and my fitness.
I am grateful that I enjoy my life today.
It wasn’t always so, of course. My life used to be pain, fear, anger… wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then oblivion. But oblivion stopped working. More was the answer, I thought. If a lot isn’t enough, too much oughta be just right.
It was worse. Much worse. We’re not a glum lot though, and I surely won’t be dwelling on how “worse” it got, so moving on…
My main goal at the beginning of recovery was just to stop the pain. Then, once the pain subsided from rigorous stepwork, came working those same steps at the rest of my life. Then, when I’d finally made room in my melon, came happiness. After my metabolism took a long jump off a short pier, fitness – and recovery got a lot more enjoyable.
That’s about where I was in my melon when I hit the tailwind (that’s really how I think, a bit of the pattern, if you will). You know life is going well when you’re grateful bucking a headwind because when you finally hit a tailwind, it really gets fun.
I opted for bonus miles.
A shower, some pizza, water, water filtered through ground up coffee beans, and a couple of hours watching the TdF…
If it gets better than that, one day at a time, I don’t know how.
The goal for recovery shouldn’t be just to sober or clean up. That’s a first year goal, but recovery is meant to be bigger than quitting. I believe we are saved from addiction to enjoy this life, while we’ve got it, and pass on our experience to others that it might help them find happiness on the path as well.
Thou shalt enjoy the life that was saved.
This post has a twist at the end.
A friend of the gang just came back from surgery. She was still a bit sore but willing to give it a go. She and her husband always ride a tandem, a Co-Motion Macchiato outfitted with Campy everything. It’s very nice and is about as heavy as my single gravel bike.
Anyway, she didn’t want anything to do with the A Group last night, so they rode with us, and we were lucky to have them.
The 7-1/2 mile warm-up was inconsequential and a bit mundane, but it got the legs moving and that was a good thing. Mrs. Bgddy showed up a little late so I did another mile and a half-ish with her so she could get her legs moving as well… because little did we know, something special was about to happen.
We watched the A Group roll out, gave them a minute, and rolled out ourselves. We had a massive group, too. Easily 30, probably more. I was in the bigger chase group with my wife, right from the beginning. We caught the lead group within a mile or two and by the time we hit our first turn we were all together and creeping up on full gas.
I took my first turn at the front about five miles in and I expected to do the normal four or five back before hearing “that’s you” with seven bikes behind me. That didn’t happen, though. I was able to get all the way to the back. To tell the truth, I’m not used to being all the way back there – it was a little unsettling. At first. Once I caught my breath and got a proper rest, though, I really enjoyed it.
The speed was quite healthy as we hit the half-way point turning east with the wind at our back. With the tailwind, things got lively. We were in the hills.
Unlike previous weeks, we didn’t have too many people charging them and breaking the group up before falling to the back and getting set to smash the group once more. Instead, we remained together for the most part. This helped my wife who, despite the excellent pace, was still hanging tough with the group. After the last major hill, we regrouped in about 25 seconds and moved out.
I took my third turn heading up the next incline at about 21-mph before falling back at the crest. Again, I was able to head back at least twelve bikes and heading into the intermediate sprint we were being led out at 32-mph, normally we’re sprinting at 33! We hit 34 and a couple of guys went up the road at close to 40 – I didn’t bother. I just stayed where I was and enjoyed the speed of it all.
We took our time going through town, never topping 20, and let the group catch back up before heading north again. I took just my third turn up front with only eight miles to go. The group was working like a well-lubed machine, one of the best nights I can remember in terms of it actually being a group ride. Better, my wife was still hanging strong. She was crushing it.
Then the A group caught us and shit got real in a hurry. See, normally, the A Group is whittled down to about six or seven guys if they catch us. We’ll be going about 24 or 25 and they blow right by us at 32-34…. but last night there was a car coming our way and that forced them into our group momentarily. When they picked the pace up again, we went with them. Our 24-mph pace became 28-30-mph (48-km/h).
I can remember Mrs. Bgddy saying, “You go ahead, if I can’t keep up, don’t worry about me”. That’s what I did. We held close to 30-mph for the final five miles and crossed the City Limits “finish line” with a 22.3-mph average, the B Group’s fastest ever Tuesday night.
I didn’t participate in the sprint because we sat in the back and let the A guys do all of the hard work up front. I slowed up, reached into my back pocket for my phone and stopped Strava. As I was putting my phone back in my pocket, here comes Mrs. Bgddy with a smile on her face from ear to ear, just beaming. Not only was she there, she said she helped the back group bridge when someone let a gap form. The effort that took must have been astounding. She said her computer showed 22-mph when she crossed the City Limits sign – her best Tuesday night, if memory serves, by a full mile per hour.
Back in the parking lot it was high-five’s and handshakes. A good time was had by all (that I’m aware of). My wife was beaming with well-earned pride as she went from friend to friend, recapping the ride and sharing fist bumps.
Last night, my wife found out, with that one act of helping her group bridge to another at better than 30-mph, that what she thought was impossible on a bike wasn’t only possible, it was doable. If I had to lay odds, last night my wife went from a great cyclist to an enthusiast.
I know that’s how it worked with me.