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Monthly Archives: January 2019

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On Helping Others in Recovery… Or Simply Others in General

One of the most rewarding aspects of sobriety, and one of the simplest, is working with another alcoholic with the hope of no more reward than they kick addiction as you did.  Watching the addiction clouds part and the sun shine on a newly recovering drunk or addict is glorious to watch.  When you see another experience the delight of freedom for the first time in a long time, well it just doesn’t get any better than that.

We get to experience that feeling all over again for ourselves.

The key to working with others is our experience.  It’s tough to give someone something we don’t have ourselves.  In fact, if one wishes to know if they’re “working the program” properly, that first few times they go to work with someone else, it should scare the hell out of them.  We should wonder if we’ve got enough good to pass on to someone else, but know that’s what we have to do to stay sober, so we push through it and give freely.

This is how we know we’ve got the proper amount of humility.  If not, it helps to knock ourselves down a few pegs.

There is action and more action.  “Faith without works is dead”. … To be helpful is our only aim.  – Alcoholics Anonymous page 88-89

And it’s as simple as that.

If we want to know how our recovery is working, all we need do is work with someone who is new to the program.  If we are down, we help someone else get out of their hole – this, by the way, works for depression as well.  I always find it interesting that the psychiatric community has yet to embrace “working with others” as a viable aid in coming out of depression.  I have a feeling it has a lot to do with the fact there’s no money changing hands in that.  Anyway, I digress.

When we help someone else, not only do we remember how to help ourselves, we remember how good we’ve got it in the first place.  That is a pretty wonderful place to be.

Thanks for reading.  Ride hard, my friends.

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And all of a sudden, I’m not 24 anymore… But I Certainly Don’t Feel or Act Like I’m 48, Either.

I have three things going for me that have helped me to look, and more important, feel considerably younger than my age.

I quit alcohol and drugs when I was 22.
Almost immediately after sobering up I found that fitness vastly improved recovery.
I quit smoking shortly thereafter.

There’s no question my body doesn’t work as well as it used to, but knocking on the door of 50, I love how active I am at my age.  I get the occasional ache and pain, of course, but to hear some people describe the pain they’re in at my age, and I simply can’t relate.  And I’m infinitely thankful I can’t.

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Some days it’s surprising how tired I am when I get home from work.  Even so, I put on my cycling get-up and put my time in on the bike.  After more than 50,000 miles I can count the number of times I felt worse after my ride on one hand – trainer or outdoor miles.

Fitness, extended youth, and happiness never happen by accident.

Ride hard, my friends.

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Fit Recovery is About Getting Fit Whilst Recovering… Not the Other Way Around.

The hardest part of kicking booze was the whole “kicking booze” part… Sobering up for a day wasn’t so bad. Two was even reasonable from time to time… three, though, that was pushing it. Four sucked, and I only got to five a couple of times. I managed two weeks one time. A day later, oblivion.

When I made the decision to quit drinking, I went at it wholeheartedly. My bargain with God was, “I’ll give sobriety everything I’ve got, if you’ll just help me”. By the time I woke up the next day, my desire to drink had been lifted – it appeared my Higher Power was willing to live up to His end of the bargain first.  I’ve always looked at this as a small miracle.

After I’d been sobered up for a bit and found there was more to life than just meetings and working a program, I decided to get into fitness.  In-line skating first.  I was light and exceptionally fast.  Back then I could hold a pace just slightly slower than I can on a road bike today.  The guy I skated with regularly was a family man.  He wasn’t a drinker, so he was safe for me to be around early in sobriety.

Eventually, as the story goes, I got into running, then cycling.  All of my good friends, riding and running, have been some form of sober or exceptionally light drinkers.

Getting to the Title, while there’s no question fitness is of the utmost importance to my recovery, the recovery came first – and it’s always remained first.  There is a very simple, but powerful, explanation for this distinction:  Without recovery, there is no fitness.

Without recovery, my addiction(s) consume everything.  There’s no wife and kids, no job, no house and cars… there’s no happiness, no friends.  I will flush all of that to stay drunk.  Always have, always will, and if I don’t remain vigilant in my awareness, my addiction is in a cage in my brain doing push-ups and pull-ups, just waiting for a chance to open the cage door that has no lock.

There’s nothing good in my life without recovery.

Ridin’ Baby! Getting Ready for the 2019 Cycling Season One Day at a Time

Work has been more hectic in the last two weeks than I’ve ever experienced in the entirety of my professional career. I’m not exaggerating. It’s nuts.

On the other hand, the view is spectacular. As hard as it’s been, I love it.

When work starts taking an inordinate amount of time from the schedule, fitness naturally takes it in the kiester. Unless you’re me. My job, especially in a building like we are in now, consists of walking and climbing stairs, literally all day.

By the time I pull into the driveway after my 6am to 3pm shift, and my hour commute home, all I want to do is melt into the couch. I don’t, though. Come 5pm, I put on my cycling shorts and a tee shirt and hit the turbo trainer for my prerequisite 45 minutes.

I’ve dropped something like five pounds in the last two weeks. I’ve already dropped my Christmas weight and if things keep up, I should be at my summer weight before spring.

More later. It’s off to work (4:15 am).

Building a Bike from the Ground Up; There’s No Compromise… When You’ve Got a Spare, Large Pile of Cash. Here’s What to Do If You Don’t.

I’m fond of, and have become good at taking a stock road bike and making it mine through upgrades.  The tandem will stay the way it is – it’s fantastic and there’s no making it any lighter without buying a new tandem – it’s a big beast (though a carbon fiber fork in lieu of the steel fork…).  My mountain bike, not much to change there, and the gravel bike is, well, a gravel bike, for God’s sake.

The road bikes, though, to this roadie those bikes are extensions of me.  I have my personality and an immodest amount of cash wrapped up in those bikes.  Now, as I mentioned in the Title, had I a spare pile of cash, I just may have gone big and been done with it as my Venge goes.  The unfortunate side of going big at the start is that most will shy away from upgrades and lose some opportunity to give the bike character right out of the gate.  Because I started small and built up with the Venge, it cost me a lot more to upgrade the bike but it was over a five year period, so the cost didn’t hurt as much…

Had I spent another $1,200 on my Venge back in 2013, I’d have started with a much improved wheelset out of the box, Ultegra components (I started with 105 but upgraded at a later date) and a saddle with titanium rails in lieu of chrome-moly.  I’d have gotten standard Ultegra brakes and a vastly less flashy paint job:2013 venge expert mid compact - bikepedia

I likely would have upgraded the handlebar to the S-Works Aerofly but I’d have left the SLK crank which would have saved about $600.  So figure $4,700 for the Venge Expert as opposed to my Venge Comp that started at $3,100 and finished at close $6,000.

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The Expert is nice, but the superiority of my Comp is unquestionable.  The FSA brakes, while poo-pooed by some, are exceptionally grippy, light and a spot-on color match – and the brakes go with the carbon fiber-wrapped FSA stem.  The S-Works crank and matching Aerofly handlebar add an air of exclusivity.  The color scheme is unquestionably perfect.  In other words, I spent about $1,300 more than I would have on the same bike, but through all of the upgrades I made my Venge a one-off custom rig.

The transformation of the Trek was even more pronounced, though a couple of the upgrades were purchased more out of necessity than of wanton gratification.

The King headset was installed because the old, stock headset was completely rusted and worn out – bad enough to cause speed wobbles at 40-mph.  The paint had to happen because some knucklehead knocked my bike off a stand at a rest stop on a supported ride and scratched gouged the paint on the top tube.  The rear wheel had to go because it blew apart at the brake track.  It was a safety issue (I rode for years on the old, heavy wheels that were OEM equipment from the Venge – then, once I upgraded the wheels on the Venge, I took the superior alloy wheels from the Venge and put them on the Trek).  The saddle mast was changed because carbon fiber… and I couldn’t get the angle quite right on the post that came with the bike.  But mostly because carbon fiber.  The stem was swapped for aesthetics and to get me into more of an aggressive posture on the bike.  The handlebar came from the Venge when I upgraded it.  As well, when I upgraded the drivetrain on the Venge, the 105 components went onto the Trek.  If you figured the cost of upgrading the parts that simply came from my other bike, you’re still looking at less than $3,500 for the bike – and that includes the new paint job.  And I got an 18-1/2 pound bike out of the deal.

The Trek is even more “me” than the Venge.  That bike was completely rebuilt from the ground up and I absolutely love it because I have so much into making it exactly what I wanted.

There are a few things that one must take into account when upgrading bikes like that, though.  First, what’s the geometry at the back end of the bike?  Will the frame even accept new(ish) components?  The Trek was just modern enough to upgrade to newer components.  A few years older and I’d likely be stuck having to cobble things together to make changes work.  My old alloy Cannondale is a mess to upgrade because it’s an old 7-speed.  The rear triangles had to be spread to accommodate modern wheels.  Spreading an alloy frame is not advised as the welds and/or tubes can crack or bend.  If that happens, you have to throw the frame away.

What handlebar width do you like?  How about crank arm length?  What about stem length (and rise/drop)?  In terms of my Trek’s headset above, there were only two available at the time I needed mine – and I needed the shop to figure that out because I had no clue what I would have needed.  Everything matters and you really have to know your way around to get everything right the first time.  Or make friends with someone at the bike shop.

If you want the same bike everyone else has, then blowing a large wad of cash can get you a fantastically light, fast, beautiful steed.  If you want to make your rig a custom, build smart… and from the ground up.  I can tell you from experience, throwing your leg over a full custom rig that you built yourself is a great feeling.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: The Simple Winter Solution to Cycling Faster; It’s not too Late… 

If half of what you are about to read in the next paragraph seems like gibberish, grab a cup of coffee and give me a few minutes… and there’s a twist at the end.

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Once all of the science, diet and weight are sifted through, once we’ve fixed the electrolyte imbalance and acquired the best bike we can afford and all of the aerodynamic kit that goes with it, once we understand FTP, VO2 max and the like, what is the one thing that must be done to keep up with a faster group on a bicycle?

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We have to push harder on the pedals. It’s not rocket science, though many attempt to make it appear as though it is to sell you something. Now, in my case, I’m trying to go go into the spring in good enough shape to be able to enjoy the ramp up to our 23-mph average on Tuesday night with the B Group. We should start at 21 to 22-mph and by June we should be cranking out 28-1/2 miles in something like 1h:12m and change. In terms of “wattage”, our normalized average is something around 250-260 for the course.

I have to embrace an ugly truth when I begin my winter training plan; pushing harder on the pedals sucks. I also put a more positive spin on it than that – at least for the benefit of my melon committee: It’s only going to suck until I get used to it sucking.

The cleaned up “melon committee approved” version made it attainable – and it’s the absolute truth. Training to pedal harder only sucks for the first week or so. After that, the progress gets a little easier. This is what I like to focus on during the trainer months in the winter. A goal helps with the monotony.

First, there are two aspects to cycling fast. Cadence, how fast you can turn the pedals over, and power, how hard you push on the pedals. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to deal with power. One of my best cycling posts ever, relating to cadence, can be read here. Personally, I preferred working on cadence first, then power because I find the higher cadence a little more difficult to get used to and once I got used to the higher cadence, it was easier to maintain it whilst, and at the same time, using a harder gear.

The first thing to get down is mindset. I have to be willing to work at this if I’m going to make it stick because it’s going to hurt. If I don’t have the willingness, I’ll give up… Or maybe I should say, I’ve given up in the past because I couldn’t maintain the willingness long enough to make a decent breakthrough. Just know this, if you keep at it, you’ll get stronger and it won’t suck as bad.

The next step is simple: Suit up and show up. Enough said.

We pick our gear next, especially if we’re on the hamster wheel of doom (the trainer). You want a gear that makes your quads burn within three or four minutes but isn’t too hard to get around. From there we back off one gear (downshift, one gear bigger on the cassette). This is your “easy” gear.

Warm up for five minutes in the easy gear, then upshift to your hard gear. Ten minutes in the hard gear, then downshift for five. Fifteen more in the hard gear then cool down for ten minutes (or put the ten minutes on the warmup and cool down for five).

The next day do the same thing. The following day is a rest day – not a day off, though, it’s an easy day; go the full 45 minutes in your easy gear.

The following day is another hard day, only this time we only warm up and cool down in the easy gear. The middle half hour is entirely spent in your hard gear.

The next day is an easy day, same as before only cut the warm up and cool down to five minutes each. Then another hard day followed by a rest day. This is your pattern. After a week that hard gear should be getting considerably easier. Do another week following that pattern. After that second week, your hard gear becomes your easy gear and you upshift one for your hard gear. Rinse and repeat. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be a lot faster than you were the year before. Done right, it should surprise you. Just don’t forget, the arm warmers, leg warmers, and/or tights will take some speed off the top.

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One final note: Don’t fret if your cadence drops a little bit when you shift into the harder gear. Just keep pedaling. It’ll come around shortly and before long, what once passed for your hard gear will be easier than you thought possible just a month before.

While all of your friends were just marking time waiting for Spring to hit, you were getting stronger. Try it, and don’t cheat. Every minute counts…. Then once the good weather does come around, watch what happens to your confidence and you’re ability to enjoy the ride!

Now, here’s the best part, and the twist: When I ride with my B group friends, and they are all very close friends – we’ve ridden thousands of miles together – because I trained harder and can ride faster, I’ll be able to ride more comfortably with them and do more to help as the group picks up speed.

Indescribable Gratitude and Happiness

From the book of Daily Reflections reading for January 17th,

In offering my hand to a newcomer or someone who has relapsed, I find that my recovery is recharged with indescribable gratitude and happiness.

And from the Big Book:

There is no more “aloneness,” with that awful ache, so deep in the heart of every alcoholic that nothing, before, could ever reach it. That ache is gone and never need return again.

Now there is a sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed and loved.  In return for a bottle and a hangover, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.

This sums the recovery pretty simply.  There are a few tricks, unfortunately.

You can’t cheat.  The best way to really feel good about yourself is by helping others without expecting a return.  The best way to help another alcoholic is to have something worth sharing.  The best way to gain that which is worth sharing is to work on your recovery so you gain experience.  It’s your experience, strength and hope that has the worth in sharing with another.  Go back to the first item; you can’t cheat.  Repeat.

I have known happiness almost beyond description – I tend to be pretty good with words when it comes to describing my being happy, or content if you prefer.  And it just keeps getting better.  It doesn’t get easier, mind you.  No, it’s infinitely more difficult as the responsibilities grow.  Kids, marriage, job, cars, mortgage… etc.  It’s when I look back at what I came from, being a miserable drunk with a job delivering pizzas – and I wasn’t very good at it – incapable of a meaningful relationship, to what I am today?

Keys of the Kingdom is right.  Having Heaven on earth is a wonderful feeling.

Keep coming back, my friends.  Even if your ass falls off.  And in the event it does, put it in a grocery bag and take it to a meeting.  They’ll be able to show you how to put it back on.