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Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Anger is My Choice: The Confession of a (Once) Angry Man

It all started over a stubbed toe….

Well, let me back up a bit. We were up at the in-law’s house for Thanksgiving with my wife’s sister and her family. That may read messy but it isn’t – it’s a party. Food, card games, laughs and as much fun as a person can have. Everything from cooking, to cleaning, to household chores are treated as a team effort so max fun time is possible.

It’s not perfect, though. The beds at the in-laws’ are a step up from plywood hard, but just one step. This leads, over several days, to me being very sore. Also, the temps this year were far too cold to enjoy cycling, in the single digits most mornings (that’s Fahrenheit, folks – negatives for the Celsius people) so we didn’t get our daily rides in – we didn’t even bring our bikes.

After four days of pain and no fitness outlet, combined with the knowledge that the diet upon returning home will have to be drastic, the good times can become strained.

So, the last morning there, my wife and I are having some normal life struggles with our eldest and she’s preoccupied. My wife is projecting a little “cranky” as well. I’m in the bathroom to shave while she’s doing her makeup and she’s taking up the dead middle of the two-sink counter. She’s after her makeup double-time, obviously agitated – and this is usually my fault, though this year I’ve done nothing that can even approach unkind, untoward, or uncaring for weeks.

So I’m fighting to shave with a quarter of the space I should have and… enter the stubbed toe.

[The main point there being that this didn’t start with a stubbed toe, it started two days prior]

Normally, when I stub my toe, I simply lose it for a second until the pain subsides. Add in the other stress and my wife’s off behavior and it’s a perfect blend for a zero to full blast instant tirade….

But I’ve been in a really good space lately with my 26th sober anniversary last week, and I think that changed how I would normally react. My thinking slowed down to snail’s pace, so I experienced each thought..

Wow, that didn’t hurt so bad. I wouldn’t have stubbed my toe if [my wife] wasn’t standing in the way. Why is she acting like that anyway?!

At this point the intensity ratchets up a bit.

Even if it didn’t hurt, I should be angry…  I should blow up…

And that’s right where I normally start to lose it, but I didn’t. Normally it happens fast, too. Blindingly fast. My thinking was so clear at that point – normally it’s like a roomful of cats in my melon just before a meltdown, but with nothing else going on, I could see the progression of each new wrinkle. I set my razor down and walked away for a few seconds… I thought,

I’m not going there today. It’s not happening.

I went back and picked up my razor and finished the last few swipes. Then I asked my wife what was wrong and followed that with, how can I help?

There was no fight. We talked about what was eating at her and the solutions. It ended well, my wife and I holding hands all the way home, the kids sleeping in the back. We unpacked and took the gravel bikes out for a ride, choosing not to invite anyone else, we just rode together.

I came to the realization that what once used to set me off in a rage, no longer held sway over me. I don’t have to fly off the handle anymore, not like I used to. Paying attention to each individual thought as it flowed through the gray matter was a breakthrough. The transition was always too fast and chaotic to grasp previously.

Not only is losing it a choice, it simply isn’t me anymore. There’s plenty of room for backsliding if I’m not careful, though… and in the future, at least I’ll have this experience to build on.

This is one of the unsung benefits of long-term, continuous sobriety; I accepted and dealt with my drinking (and drug) problem long ago so I have plenty of time to work on other, smaller things that led to the drink, like my anger issue.  Most normal folk don’t bother to look that deep inside to fix what’s wrong with them.  It’s far easier to concentrate on playing Don Quixote with all things external – you never run out of things to set you off when you choose to be angry at things you can’t control in the first place.

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The Noob’s Guide to Cycling; On Being a Weight Weenie – All at Once or Over Time?

We’re into winter now, more than a month early, but here we are. The Venge hasn’t seen the light of day for close to a month.

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Every once in a while, I’ll walk into the bike room and pick it up, marveling at how light the bike is after all the upgrades. It was three pounds heavier when I brought it home five years ago. Considering you can feel one pound on a hill, three is a pretty big deal. What’s really crazy is the amount of money it cost to drop those three pounds, but no sense crying over new carbon fiber… because carbon fiber is freaking awesome. I digress…

There are two ways to go about being a weight weenie. First, the cheaper way is to go all in right off the bat and buy the best bike you can afford. The cost up front is great but if you’ve got the cash up front, it’ll beat the second option…

Option two – what if you don’t have the cash up front? The other way to go is to buy the low-end high performance bike and upgrade the $#!+ out of it – this is the way I went. The cost in going this route is greater, but you’ve got the luxury of time to get the bike where you want it. I needed the time because I didn’t have the $4,500-$5,000 up front.

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While it’s easy to go for the big items first, every little bit counts. Going with a $80 Ultegra cassette in lieu of a $30 SRAM model. A $60 chain over the $30 model. Carbon fiber cages over the molded plastic. Lightweight cable housing over the heavy, cheaper budget housing. You can knock 150 grams (more than a quarter-pound) just by going from a $100 saddle to a $300 top-of-the-line saddle. A stem that retails for $165 instead of the stock stem – call that 90 grams. A $500 crankset? Three-quarters of a pound over an alloy model. Lightweight carbon fiber wheels? A little more than a pound right there. Lightweight tires? 30-100 grams. Decent pedals? Another 50-ish grams.

Folks, when you start adding all of that up, it’s quite a bit of weight. In the case of my Specialized, a shade more than three pounds…

Even after all of the money I dropped on my Venge, having to do it over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I still like the “over time” method of upgrading a bike. It makes sense for someone who doesn’t have a great deal of disposable income to drop on a bicycle. I paid more in the long run, a lot more, but having spread it out over time has meant no financing was required. I was able to pay cash for everything, and no debt is good debt. Also, and this is the best part, because I upgraded the parts over time, I was able to pick out the perfect matching parts for my steed. The bike I have now is vastly better looking than the one I brought home.

As for the great Eddy Merckx and his quote, “don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades”…

I prefer doing both.

UPDATE: The Omil made a fantastic point in the comments a lot more eloquently than I did; building your bike over time is enjoyable because one takes an active role in the evolution of the bike.

Well said, by friend.

How to Look Cool on a Bike, According to Brian Holm

A fun article to check out about how to avoid looking like a doofus on a bike – something that I take very seriously (as we all know).

While I agree with the crux of the article, and with seven of the nine bullet points, I couldn’t agree more (can we say “bullet” points still, or is that a trigger [heh]?).

I’ll just focus for a second on two that don’t fit. First, under “A racing bike should look like a racing bike” or “Don’t look like a triathlete “, the main rule is a bike should have white bar tape. So sayeth Brian Holm, the director sportif of Etixx Quick Step in 2015.

One could imagine I would have a problem with that rule:

While I couldn’t possibly argue against a race bike looking like a race bike, as mine is a perfect specimen, it is inarguable that white bar tape could fit on my race bike. Impossible.

In fact, and this is a little funny to me, if you look at Brian’s photo in the article, you should be able to pick out the delicious irony. Raspberry flavored.

Second up is no cycling cap under the helmet. He’s got a point, it’s hard to argue, but I just don’t want to follow this one. Brian is in opposition to the Velominati rules as well, which state cycling caps may only be worn when engaged in a cycling activity… Well, you can’t wear one on the bike and you can’t wear one off it? Forgive me if I call Bull$#!+.

The rest are rock solid and right on – especially the sleeveless jersey rule!

Enjoy! And comment down below if you must.

UPDATE: Sheree, in the comments section, makes the excellent point that these items don’t apply the same to ladies. A woman can pull off a sleeveless jersey without batting an eye. A guy couldn’t do that with enough makeup to make Tammy Fae Baker, in her hay day, blush. Except whilst in the process of completing a triathlon.

Also, short shorts are unquestionably a no-no for a guy, but fantastic for women.

Call it a double-standard, it is what it is, boys.

How to Sprint Faster?! The Position Best Optimized for the Sprint

I read a great article that looks in great depth at the position pro sprinters adopt to get a few extra mph-km/h out of their sprint.

Did you know the average pro sprint finish is right around 40-mph and lasts less than 20 seconds?

The best I’ve ever done, without a howling tailwind, is 34-1/2 so I’m fairly stoked about that, but the forward position the pros sprint in? I can partially get there, but at 48 years-old I think it’s just a bridge too far.

Still, for a fairly huge change in positioning on the bike, they say you can get as much as an extra 5-km/h out of your sprint.

For your average weekend warrior like me, that’s the difference between 34-1/2 and call it 37-mph (once you consider I’m almost that low already).

Whether a sprinter or not, give the article a look. It’s quite an interesting read.

Outside: Standout Road Bikes from Our 2019 Test

Outside: Standout Road Bikes from Our 2019 Test.
https://www.outsideonline.com/2366646/best-road-bikes-our-2019-test

From gravel bikes to a 25 pound pedal assist e-road bike (seriously!), the article at the link above has got a little bit of everything. Enjoy.

All I can think of lately is what I could do with an extra 30 watts. Oh my.

Idle Hands and Early Recovery; Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds, Get Busy. The Path to Sobriety has No Familiar Faces on It.

I’m working with a new, young fella in recovery. His story is next-level tragic next to mine. In fact, I have what some call a high bottom. The depth isn’t important, though. What is important is that I was ready to stop digging.

So my new kid is fresh off a relapse. He texted me Sunday (oh, how I love recovery by text message…) that he’d been on a bender and wanted to know if we could meet up. I explained that he should probably sleep it off rather than trying to drive stoned. Then he wanted to know if we should talk. I explained we should wait till he was straight as I don’t waste time on counseling whilst wasted.

I texted him on Monday and asked if he was ready to talk and caught him at the perfect time.

The conversation was good and productive, and once we got through the pleasantries of his relapse, we got to its cause: down time. Thankfully, I just happen to be a master at managing down time. Unfortunately, I only know one way to manage said down time, and it takes effort and sacrifice.

Those two things aren’t popular.

First, to those not in recovery, this information will be invaluable to you if you know someone in recovery (or who needs recovery). Second, for those in recovery, I’m about to share the only way I know to make recovery work in a world where alcohol and drugs are everywhere. You may disagree or have a different way. I am okay with you doing your recovery how you see fit. I’m also definitely okay with how I do mine.

Down time, the time not spent in a meeting, is the enemy of recovery. Simply put, we relapse when we lose an argument that happens in our head. Sadly, in the beginning if we have the argument, we lose the argument. It’s hard to have the argument sitting in a roomful of recovering people. It’s hard to have the argument when you’re actively working the steps or studying the Big Book.

Let’s look at when it’s not difficult to have the argument:

  • Sitting around doing nothing
  • Hanging out with using friends
  • Sitting in a bar
  • Sitting in the dope dealer’s livingroom
  • You get the frickin’ idea
  • This isn’t rocket science
  • If you sit in a barbershop long enough, you’re going to get your hair cut.
  • Don’t sit in the barbershop

In 26 years of continuous sobriety, I’ve been to five bars. Total. I should add here, I was a drinker. I liked my drugs, too, but they scared me a lot. I didn’t handle drinking very well so I wasn’t too adventurous with anything else, lest I really mess myself up.

Anyway, the first bar I walked into at six months sober. I wanted to live vicariously, so I went into my old dive to have a chat with the owner… who lamented having not seen me for so long, followed by trying to convince me that I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic because I’d never been kicked out of his bar. It opened my eyes. I walked out still sober, but what I’d done was the opposite of smart.

That was the second stupidest thing I ever did sober.

The first was going into a bar with an old using buddy of mine at six months and a week of sobriety, for his Birthday. I had a near beer and a half. Even with that infinitesimal amount of alcohol in “non-alcoholic beer”, my body and brain remembered. I was as close as one gets to a relapse without actually relapsing. I found out the hard way, “non-alcoholic” means “not for alcoholics”. I made my apologies and left.

It was immediately after that last trip to the bar that I took my program seriously. I swore off every old friend I had – meaning, when they came around or called, I actually told them I would never be able to hang with them again, effective immediately, because I had no control over what I would do when we were together. This included my best friend in the whole world since my parents moved us to Michigan when I was five years-old. I cut my old life off completely. That’s the sacrifice.

I had to make a decision; sober life and a chance at happiness, or misery. I was out of options with drinking and I was quite tired of misery.

From that day forward, I surrounded myself with people in the program. Sober friends only. For more than a decade I chose only recovering friends.

Then came my third trip to a bar. I was with the woman that is now my wife and we went out dancing at a huge place called “Industry”… Think N.I.N, Ministry, etc.

  • I had a valid reason to be there (other than wanting to get drunk or live vicariously through someone else getting drunk).
  • I was on solid ground with my sobriety and working diligently on productive recovery. I was spiritually fit.
  • I had an easy way out if I started to get squirrelly.

The only way I will walk into an establishment that serves alcohol is to have those three items satisfied. If one is off, I won’t go. Period, end of sentence.

The fourth time I walked into a bar was for a business lunch. The three items were checked and I even spoke with a sober friend before. This was only, ten or eleven years ago.

The last several bar trips were to see one-time huge national bands at The Machine Shop with my wife. It’s a bar that seats 300 or so. We saw Scott Weiland, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Spacehog, and a couple of others that my wife likes… Again, all three items on the checklist were met – if I can’t meet all three items, I go to a meeting instead, until I’m in a position to meet the three items.

When my recovery is on solid ground, the argument in my head is impossible to lose. Not only have I been able to handle situations which used to baffle me, I’ve grown enough to be able to shut down and win the argument in my head. This was once impossible.

My friends, that’s how it worked for me. I would advise, though, skipping the near misses. I barely made it through them. It could be said that I got lucky. It could also be said that God helped me through them. I choose the latter, but whatever works.

Celebrating the Specialized Venge; Six Years of One of the Slipperiest Bikes Out There.

The Specialized Venge was rolled out for the first time in 2012 as one of the first “aero” road race bikes. Today, it dominates as one of the slipperiest bikes in cycling clubs the world over.

We have five of the first generation Venge’s and one ViAS in our club, between the A and B Groups. The closest representation of another super-bike is the Trek 7 Series with just two. While we have every major manufacturer represented, only the Specialized Venge has such strong interest.

It can be argued, fairly, that the first generation Venge was the perfect aero bike. It was possible to make the bike mountain climbing light (14-ish pounds) with the right components (close to the UCI legal limit) and enough cash, but where it was extraordinary was that it could be made to be within a pound of that for a reasonable sum ($6,000 give or take). If you look at the second generation ViAS, the initial high-end version was more than 18 pounds. The less expensive versions, one would assume, were better than 20 pounds. They’ve worked the weight down a bit, even with disc brakes, but today’s ultra-aero comes with a fairly stiff weight penalty.

Anyway, for those of us who have been fortunate enough to own one, we are a part of a special group of cyclists; those who know exactly how fantastic it is to ride one of the slipperiest road bikes ever made.