There, but for the Grace of God, go I…
Every recovered alcoholic knows, in one way or another, of “the jumping off place”, that point in one’s disease when they know alcohol is killing them, but they’re terrified to quit.
Speaking from experience, this is a lonely place.
My sponsor likes to say, when a newcomer happens on our meeting, “Let me welcome you to a new way of life. You don’t ever have to feel like you do right now, again.”
I was petrified when I quit, but I knew something had to give. At only 22, my health was fading fast. If I ate solid food twice in a day, that was a good day. I couldn’t stomach much. The rest of my daily caloric intake went to booze. I had some tests done as a part of an out-patient treatment program and the conclusions weren’t good. Apparently, my liver was swollen, which accounted for the gut I had under my six-pack, and the doctor said I had liver enzyme readings equal that of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic. I was a drunk with a weak liver to boot. He gave me till 30 if I kept going the way I was. I wasn’t quite done… yet.
Then the trouble with the law ramped up.
I was sentenced to an in-patient treatment center rather prison. I was given the option, of course, but I took treatment (less time). I wasn’t at my jumping off place until I was well into my bout of DT’s (read delirium tremens, or withdrawals). It was only then that I fully understood how far down the scale I’d fallen. It was either quit, or die.
So I quit. I ceased fighting and asked God for help. And I went to meetings. And I won. And I kept winning. And I kept going back. Because that’s what we do to win. And I worked some steps. And I found freedom. Because that’s how it works.
My friends, the jumping off place is a good place for a soon-to-be recovering addict. That ledge is the only place from which I could make a decision to quit. The only problem is the journey to get there. That part sucks.
Keep coming back, my friends. And if you’re new, welcome to a new way of life. You don’t ever have to feel like this again. And, as my sponsor likes to say, if nobody’s told you that they love you today, let me be the first.
Recover hard, my friends.
Day two on my new saddle was a day for getting it squared away, leveled and to test its limits as comfort goes. If I’m good at anything, it’s geeking out over tiny details.
For this test, I chose to wear my lightest pair of bibs with a chamois that’s… well, there isn’t much there. They’re a nice pair of bibs, but I won’t wear them for a ride longer than 40 miles for the lack of adequate chamois padding.
I wanted to feel what was happening – that’s the only way to be certain I’ve got everything right. A thick chamois wouldn’t transfer enough… um… feedback. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
I started pedaling and noticed two things within the first minute. The nose of the saddle was just a shade too high, and the saddle itself needed to be lowered, maybe two millimeters. I made the adjustments and climbed back on. Perfect.
I spent the next 45 minutes in the same spot, pedaling away, watching Martian. I doubt I’ll have to change another thing after that… except that pair of bibs. Those won’t work on that saddle.
One final observation; that saddle probably won’t work on the Trek even though I’m running it through the paces on that bike. Not that I’d want the expensive saddle on the Trek, it’s just too lacking in padding to go on a bike that requires 23mm tires. The Venge, with its 25mm tires and carbon fiber wheels, is vastly more comfortable for such a stiff saddle. In the end, I’ll put the Selle on the Venge and take the Romin off the Venge and put that on the 5200.
I went to a bike swap meet with my wife, Sunday morning. A friend I ride with regularly had some high-end saddles, among other carbon fiber pleasantries, for sale and he offered one to me.
I was ready for something a little lighter than my Specialized Romin, but I laughed when I felt the full weight of it. Folks, the whole saddle is 110 grams. Less that a quarter of a pound. It’s less than half the weight of my Romin.
My friends, the Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow.
The cutout is mighty big but… dude, 110 grams! My first impression was really… dude, seriously, does it matter?! 110 grams! The Specialized Romin that came on my Venge is 273 grams. So, when I put that svelt 110 SLR Tekno Flow on the Venge I’ll lose a third of a pound – on the saddle alone.
Last night was my first spin on it. Now, I can’t exactly say it was butter, because you don’t get that light putting padding on a saddle.
I chose a pair of old bibs with a thinner chamois so I could get an idea of how the saddle really felt. Folks, I don’t care if it is a $400 saddle, if it hurts to ride on it I’d rather opt for something that’s comfortable and a little heavier – I spend way too much time in the saddle to mess with something that’s even a little uncomfortable. The first few miles were a bit of an adjustment getting used to the huge cutout. Once I got the fore/aft position figured out, though, it was surprisingly comfortable. The best way to put it is it allows the hips to open up so you can stretch out. With the plusher saddle I usually ride on the Trek, the way the saddle cradles you limits how low you want to get in the drops (most “comfortable” saddles are like this). The Selle puts no limits on low – in fact, it encourages riding low on the hoods or in the drops.
Much more research will be required, but that saddle is absolutely staying in the stable. Normally, after 45 minutes in the saddle on the trainer, my butt gets a little agitated – not quite painful, but I’m ready to be done. While there was an adjustment period to the vastly more rigid SLR, there was zero agitation at the end of my 45 minute ride last night. Interesting, indeed. And did I mention? 110 grams!
When it comes to my posts about recovery, I tend to pick hard hitting topics and drive emotion into them. Recovering from addiction is a big deal in some aspects, but in others, it’s mostly just a day to day, easy does it.
When I first sobered up, the whole idea was pretty simple for the first year; don’t f*ckin’ drink. I went to a lot of meetings to make sure I would make it. The first half of the year I hit a meeting every day – sometimes two.
After that first year, the real work started and it was about fixing the other 23 hours of the day. It wasn’t so much about not drinking – I already had that down – it was about fixing all of the crap that I drank over in the first place.
Many people who fail with recovery, have a tough time grasping that true freedom from addiction isn’t realized until the other twenty-three hours of the day are dealt with successfully.
Anyone can stay clean and sober in an in-patient rehab facility. It’s what happens when we step outside that causes us trouble.
I’ve gotten to the point in recovery where I don’t worry much about alcohol and drugs anymore. My natural reaction to being anywhere near them is to recoil – to think things through. When I wake up in the morning, after thanking God for another day on the right side of the grass, I think about what I can do better today. I think about where I might have fallen short yesterday, and what I need to do to be a better me.
This is the best way I know to start a day. Focused on how I can be a better version of me. This is how I do good with the other twenty-three hours of the day.
Riding a roller coaster at a coaster park is great. Riding a roller coaster in life, not so much. We learn early on that highs that are too high lead to lows that are too low. If we smooth the track out, we don’t risk not being able to carry momentum up the next hill, causing us to slide back down to the bottom.
I was about twelve seconds away from choosing sports cars as my hobby. I’ve got an ’86 Mazda RX-7 GXL in the garage that my aunt gave to me for doing some work on her house to get it ready to sell a few years before she died. It needs considerable work done to it and now that I’m into cycling I don’t have the time, disposable cash, or “want to” to bother with it. Had I stuck with running, this post would be very different.
With that history out of the way, I hadn’t planned on getting into bike refurbishing when I started the sport. I was simply happy to get outside and turn the pedals. Oh, and I had no idea what went into maintaining bikes, let alone building or restoring them from the ground up but the owner of our local bike shop set me free one day. He told me to go ahead and tinker with my bikes. He ended with, “You can’t break it bad enough that we can’t fix it.”
Years later, someone knocked my Trek off the rack at a supported ride in Flint. The top tube was gouged and a glob of baby blue paint from the rack was transferred to my frame. It broke my heart. The bike was a mess, so I decided to remake it the way I wanted it.
My trusty, old Trek went from decently cool to undeniably spectacular in the space of a couple of six months – and I managed to drop a couple of pounds off of it in the process.
Just like customizing a car (only with fewer moving parts), breathing new life into a classic bike is a labor of love. Though unlike a car, a complete transformation will be (fairly) reasonable on the finances. At least relatively speaking.
Once I got going, I went all in. In addition to the paint job, the bike got better, lighter wheels, a lighter double crankset in lieu of a heavy, inefficient triple, a ten speed drivetrain in lieu of a nine speed, a new seat post, a new flipped 17° in lieu of a flipped 12° stem, a new headset, and a new bottom bracket, and real leather bar tape (the cat’s pajamas). The bike started out with a lot of brushed aluminum parts but I changed everything over to black, right down to the seat post collar. I did leave the brakes alone, for now, mainly to keep something on the bike original other than the frame, fork and chainring bolts. That’ll change this year, though. Those brakes are going to be black as well, and shortly.
Thankfully, that ’99 Trek frame is just new enough that modern components work on the frame. Some things I had to account for – and having friends at the local bike shop helped immensely, because I’d have been lost without them – the distance between the rear chainstay dropouts (130mm for 10sp. 131 for 11sp. and the extra millimeter doesn’t matter, I’ve got 11sp. wheels on the race bike with a 10sp. drivetrain and a spacer on the cassette), the seat post diameter, handlebar diameter, the handlebar width, the seat post collar diameter, put simply, if you’re going to bolt a part onto a bike, the measurements matter. Watch the details, too; most people won’t go to the length of actually ordering a new seat post collar in black, but it made a big difference to my eyes. The Trek has a quill stem, unlike the newer threadless stems. I opted for a quill post with a newer stem rather than trying to find a proper black one-piece quill stem (they are out there, I just thought it would be simpler to go with the newer threadless stems – more options available). Swapping the 9sp. triple drivetrain for a 10sp. compact double was a snap. I needed a new Ultegra English threaded bottom bracket ($38 installed) and a new crankset ($20 – used, bought from a mechanic at the shop who had an extra from a new bike that he’d upgraded), and new chainrings ($60). Much to my surprise, once the old bottom bracket was taken out, the new went in as easy as could be hoped, even though the bottom bracket designs were completely different:
It cannot be stated strongly enough how much better the new crank and bottom bracket setup is contrasted to the old. The old required constant cleaning and maintenance. The new has been, up to this point, set and forget. I’ve taken the assembly apart a few times to make sure everything was clean but it wasn’t necessary. The old would get a little creaky now and again (usually dirt working its way to the bearings) but the new hasn’t creaked once – it’s been incredibly quiet.
After all of the work and money that went into the transformation, I can say without question, the bike I’ve got today is vastly superior to what it was just a few years ago. Vastly….
… and it was worth every penny. The Trek went from my “ride four times a season as a rain bike” to my go-to tour bike.
To wrap this post up, there’s one thing that has to be addressed early on in the project. Are you going to go retro and keep the bike original or are you going to go modern? I chose to modernize the bike. A cleaned up front end with newer shifters meant the cable housings travel under the bar tape. Changing the drivetrain from triple to double improved the efficiency in shifting and dropped some decent weight. The seat post went from alloy to carbon fiber, but the big change was made to improve my ability to adjust the seat angle (the old seat post had notches so the seat nose was too high on one notch and too low on the next). There will be work in either option – whether finding new components that match up with your old frame, or finding vintage parts. Either option presents its challenges.
In my case, I was interested in functionality. I wanted the bike to not only look smashing, I wanted it to meet specific operating criteria. I wanted a bike that was easy on the eyes and superior in its operation. That meant newer components – there never was a question for me. It took a while to make it what I wanted, but I’m glad I went to the trouble.
My first big outdoor ride of the spring, last year was on March 4th. The year before it was March 5th. The year before, March 7th – basically the first weekend of March, going back to 2012 (the first full year I started tracking my rides).
We’re just shy of halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. Those to the north of us have a little more time, but for everyone else, those first few rides are only a few weeks away, and for those of us who aren’t on Zwift with a smart trainer, spring will be a rude awakening if we haven’t been hitting the turbo sessions hard.
This week, if you’ve been following along, you should be well into dabbling in your hardest gear. You’ve had one or two easy days, but you’re spending some decent time in your chosen “toughest gear”.
The next three weeks are going to be used to build up leg strength so you’ll be spending entire workouts in the hard gear – because once you’re there, all you have to do is take your bike outside.
It may not feel like it today (we’re into the ugly temps in Michigan), but we’re going to be outside in no time. Hit this last few weeks hard so you won’t have to play catch-up with your friends.
Now is the time.
Ride hard, my friends.
The topic last night came out of the Daily Reflections and our Completely Random Big Book reading. By completely random, I mean it. We flip to a page and read, so it’s extra special when the readings from two different books, and one being random, both manage to line up and center on the same theme (it happens frequently).
So, sticking to my story.
I was a very rare kid early in recovery. 96% of us don’t make it, we go back out to see if we’re really an addict. Two weeks into an in-patient treatment center, after having a minute to look at what my life had become without the haze of being drunk or high, I was mortified. I entered treatment with the intention and commitment of doing my time, then relapsing the second I got my ass out of trouble. After the first layer of fog lifted, I changed my tune.
I asked God for a deal; I’d give sobriety everything I had if He’d just help me get through it. My crushing urge to drink was lifted by the time I woke up the next morning. I can’t describe the relief on waking up that morning – I can’t do it justice, anyway. 26 years later and I still get a little misty thinking about it. I hadn’t felt freedom in years.
After leaving treatment, I didn’t go back out. I didn’t relapse. Much to the surprise of my parents, I asked for a ride to a meeting. I went to another the next day. And the next. And the next. I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, then I did it again, just to make sure I got it right. I didn’t fight recovery, I let it cover me like a warm blanket on a snow day.
When long-timers gave me advice, I didn’t push back. I took that advice and used it. I surrounded myself with people in the program and I got right into the middle of the wagon – it’s easy to fall off when you’re on the edge of the wagon, almost impossible when you’re in the middle.
I’ve lived four lifetimes sober and I’m working on the fifth (I drank for six years before quitting, so six drunk, 26 sober…) and life is so good, I can’t imagine how it could get better. Experience in this way of life has taught me one thing, though; if I keep coming back, it will get better. It always does – and the idea of that is indescribably exciting.
I got here because I had been beaten by king alcohol and drugs. I had no more fight left in me, so I gave up and asked God for some help. When that help showed up, I used it. It’s as simple as that.
A man survived a flood, but the water was rising rapidly. He prayed to God to send him help. As the water was cresting the first step on his porch, a man in a canoe went by and asked if he wanted a lift. The man refused, saying that he’d prayed and God had his back, he was okay.
A short while later, the man was on the second floor to his home, looking at the water just outside the window. A fella in a rowboat went by and asked the man if he wanted a ride to high ground. The man waved the boater on, saying God was going to save the day.
A few hours later the man was on the roof and a helicopter flew overhead. I rescue worker was lowered down but the man refused assistance again, saying that God would be there for him.
Thirty minutes later he’d drowned and was standing at the Pearly Gates. On his intake interview with God, the man asked, “I asked You for help! What happened?”
God responded, “Shit, I sent you a canoe, a row boat and a helicopter! What more did you want?!”
I just have to make sure and take the canoe when it shows up. I don’t want to wait for the helicopter.
On an average day at work I climb about 1,360 stairs. Long about Wednesday afternoon I start tiring out.
It wasn’t such a big deal when we were working on the Third and Fourth floors, but now we’re all the way up on Twelve and the whole “not having a working elevator at our disposal is starting to suck.
Now, for those in construction, you’re thinking, wait, we work down, not up! Very perceptive! You’re right! Except when a job gets screwed up through incompetent management. Then you work up a couple of floors, then down five floors, from the middle, then down two more, then you mess with twelve and the penthouse. Without an elevator. Brilliant. It is what it is.
Yet, I digress… Big time. At least it’s an excellent fitness opportunity.
So last night my legs were feeling rather smoked when I got home. I almost took a night off, but I won’t be hitting the trainer on Friday due to bowling and I took a day off for my daughter’s swim meet on Monday. I don’t need the miles – those trips up and down the steps are better than trainer time anyway, but my 45 minutes on the trainer is still therapy… and I’m not missing three days in a week. Nope.
So, I’m sitting on the bed, not looking forward to hammering out 45 minutes in the hardest gear and it hit me; active recovery day. With a new spring in my step, I suited up and threw a leg over the top tube. I cued up Pacific Rim on Xfinity on Demand and got lost. By lost, I mean it. I was third from the last gear and maintaining my perfect cadence (don’t ask me for the number of RPM, I have no idea – it just feels right), just spinning away. A while into it I decided to check the time, only to see I’d gone over by a couple of minutes… And that’s how a session on the trainer should go. Unfortunately, those days are rare.
I woke up this morning feeling considerably better.
Ride hard, my friends.
As a young lad in recovery I received word that a childhood friend of mine, Marty, had been found in his vehicle, parked across the street from a drug house, a bullet through his brain.
By “young lad”, I mean young. I quit drinking and mind-altering drugs, the last time, at 22 years, three months, eleven days-old. I kept coming back.
A few years later I heard that my best friend from high school had died from an overdose. The two of us were virtually inseparable through much of middle school and high school. We played saxophones, he the tenor. I played alto. We were in a couple of high school rock bands together. Heroin. His dad, always viewed as disinterested by us, was crushed. Cancer had gotten his wife, my friend’s mom, a few years earlier.
I went to his funeral, and kept coming back.
Early in my first year of sobriety, an old-timer responded to something I shared in a meeting with one of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard in recovery – and there are a pile of one-liners in recovery; “Keep coming back, even if your ass falls off.” A friend of his chimed in, “and in the unlikely event your ass does fall off, put it in a bag and take it to a meeting. They’ll be able to show you how to put it back on.”
My friends, I love to write about cycling, good times, noodle salad, and being a fairly happy guy. That’s all skippy, as long as one thing remains clear; that amounts to a hill of shit without recovery – there is nothing without my recovery. No cycling, not good times, no noodle salad, no wife, no life, no kids, no house, no pets, no friends… none of it.
And to be very clear here, alcohol will not take all of the good from my life. I take responsibility for my addiction and recovery. Without recovery, I will give all of that good stuff up to stay drunk. It’s what we do.
I will keep coming back. Even if my ass falls off. As long as I do that, I’ve got a chance.
Every cyclist who can’t perform their own tune-up on their bike will be descending on the bike shop with their favorite steed to get it tuned up – usually right around the first nice day of the year. There will be a one to two week backlog. Those who don’t know any better will wonder why it could possibly take that long to get a bike tuned up.
Well, if you didn’t before, now you know. It’s because everyone heads over to the shop at roughly the same time; two days before the weather breaks.
Don’t be one of the sheep. Take your bike in for its tune-up now. The benefits are huge. You’ll get the best mechanics – the people the shop can’t lay off over the slow winter months for fear they’ll find other work. You’ll also get your bike tended to while work is slim at the shop – the attention to detail will be greater.
There is a downside, of course. There always is. You can be virtually guaranteed the shop will find every last little thing wrong with your bike and want to fix it. Be weary of up-selling.
Other than that one small item to look out for, which will only be a real problem with the less scrupulous shops, be ready for spring rather than get stuck playing “I wish I could be riding right now”. Take your steed in and get it looked over before the rush. You’ve only got a few weeks to be ahead of the game.