I’ve hit my stride in recovery. Everything is in balance (or close enough for government work, anyway). I struggle just enough to know there’s a struggle, and little enough that I know I don’t want to struggle more than I do. My life is good enough that I can enjoy it, but not so good that I get cocky. My marriage is awesome enough that I want to keep working at it to keep the good times rolling. I’m fit, but not enough that I can’t enjoy a good burger. Life is not perfect, but it works. Well.
Here’s the down side: It only took me 26 years to figure this out and make it work. Oh, I had all of the instructions laid out in front of me, it just took a lot of practice to get the hang of it and learn how to default to happy, rather than what I ended up with as an alcoholic.
How hard is the whole “happiness is an inside job” business? Many noobs to the happiness thing mistakenly believe there’s some level of perfection needed in one’s life to be happy – and that’s why so many people are miserable, because perfection has nothing to do with happiness. Perfection is fleeting. Unattainable.
The key is for life to be good enough that its flaws are acceptable… and to accept them fully.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of work in making that happen and most aren’t willing to do it because this involves focusing on the one thing in the world we can really affect change on; what we see in the mirror. We are taught early on that life isn’t fair, that a “lucky” few get to control everything from money to power to wealth. They say it’s not possible for you to be happy because the deck is stacked against you, to hold you down. Maybe its your race, religion, your gender, or who you choose to sleep with…
It’s all bullshit. I am happy because I choose not to participate in that mess of anger, self-pity and selfishness. It’s way too easy to be consumed by the anger. Anger, self-righteous anger, will take over all that is good in me if I let it.
So when I’m angered, I ask for forgiveness for being angry and the ability to forgive those whom I feel have wronged me. In other words, I stick with what is wrong with me.
And that’s how happiness becomes an inside job.
Or choose to stay angry. Whatever floats your boat. Just remember that you make the choice.
Recovering from addiction, if done right, will be the hardest thing you ever do in life. If you’re doing it wrong, then doing it right will be the second hardest thing you ever do.
For the last, oh, I don’t know, several thousand years or so, alcoholics have been trying to switch addictions to cope with quitting their drug/drink of choice. Beer only, wine only, liquor only, foo-foo drinks only… weed only, pills only, heroin only, cocaine only, weed and beer, coke to get up, booze to come down… you get the idea. Hey, why not swing for the fences and throw meth in there for good measure? I’m sure that’ll end well.
Friends, there is no escape an addict won’t exploit. If it makes us feel good, without proper motives and checks, we’ll abuse it. It’s what we do.
The problem is not that we abuse the $#!+ that makes us feel good, it’s that we have to escape what is happening around us, that we want to escape life (usually synonymous with our bad decisions and the wreckage we create). As addicts, we used to escape, to hide from life, therefore anything that gives us that escape in recovery has to be suspect (even, gulp, cycling). If it’s mood or mind-altering, in the form of a drug, it’s simply off limits (there are exceptions, obviously, but none of them include self-diagnosis or pot – though feel free to kid yourself. I won’t try to stop you). If it’s something that simply puts a smile on our face, like cycling in my case, we must constantly assess our motives and our behavior. If we don’t, we risk creating more, new wreckage from which we’ll seek to hide. And that will start the cycle of destruction and the downward spiral to relapse.
That’s how $#!+ works.
In the end, Captain Obvious, it’s very simple; quit first, recover second. Sadly, we don’t get to put the cart before the horse. I can’t have the benefits of recovery if I won’t quit in the first place.
Tuesday night was spectacular. We had a north wind and that’s normally tough for the home stretch, but for some crazy reason it didn’t bother me too much at all… and for the first time this year I got to the warm-up on time. And oh, was it a gloriously fun warm-up!
We rolled out a bit late, a few minutes after Six in the evening for the big event. The A Group were already down the road when Jonathan and I took the lead and we quickly, surprisingly took the pace over 22-mph. That’s a fast start, and for some crazy reason the crosswind just wasn’t hurting me like it should have. Almost three-quarters of the way to our first turn and I looked down to see 24-mph. Never, in the history of a Tuesday Night Club Ride, has the B Group started out that fast without a tailwind.
We made our turn into the headwind and the pace eased quite a bit as we dropped to the back. Unfortunately, we’d blown up the group. In the first mile and a half. We’d strung everyone out for the better part of a mile. We waited a bit longer than usual at the first main intersection for stragglers to catch up, but there were still a few back. I asked the group to take it easy for a bit and dropped back bring them up to the group. I turned around and started with an easy pace just ahead of Matt. Chuck, who went back with me, fell in behind me and we commenced to pulling Matt back. I dropped them three times in the headwind. Riding with my hands on the bar top to cut more wind.
I checked my back to make sure some smart ass hadn’t glued a cape to my jersey. I did have a this on my chest, though:
After bringing my friends back, the fun began. We charged west with a crosswind for a mile, north for a mile into the headwind, then our Sweet Lady of Tailwind showed up. We flew. Our 21-mph jumped to 24. We flirted with 27 a few times, even nudged 30.
We hauled ass up the hills after a slow start up the first. We were busted up again after a tricky gravel-strewn turn off a busy road. Besides, we wanted to give the tandems a chance to build up a head of steam.
By this point I felt like Neo the first time he saw the Matrix for what it was… I was just cruisin’, everything was perfect. The bike was fast and nimble and I wasn’t struggling to hold on at all – it was something special, that’s all I can say about it.
Over two of the biggest hills of the ride, down to the valley, up again and we were almost twenty miles in, at the regroup spot.
We waited for most of a minute then split as the last straggler rounded the corner. I had my eyes on that intermediate sprint, a little more than a mile up the road and I was perfectly positioned, about six bikes back. The pace started ramping up as we crested a small climb that precedes the blast into town. Too close to the front and you’ll be pulling the group into the sprint at 28-mph. Too far back and good luck getting to the front as the group splinters under the weight of the gears needed to keep that pace up. I held my enthusiasm, fighting the urge not to jump as I had to feather my front brake to stay out of the wheel in front of me.
I launched my sprint far enough out that nobody would have been expecting me to go quite that early. Starting speed was just shy of 26.7-mph and I took it up to 33.4, everything I had in me with a headwind, and held it till my lungs were burning. I looked back under my left arm to see my buddy Chuck, but he wasn’t within striking distance, so I eased up and took it across the line at 30-mph.
Every time I sprint for a City Limits sign with my friends I feel like I did when I was twelve, pushing my mountain bike as hard as I could to cross some imaginary line… man, just writing about it puts a smile on my face.
We regrouped again in the city proper. I did a short turn up front then headed back to recharge for the final sprint. I took my turns up front over the next eight miles, but they were short.
The last 10%, or three miles, of the ride are some of the best we ride. Slightly descending all the way into town, even in a headwind we can manage a decent speed. Last night, with a light crosswind, we were stacked up in a double echelon and charging down the road for the City Limits sign. Just a mile from the finish we hit a bit of a lull in the pace. It dropped from 26-mph down to 22, but it picked back up in a hurry. With a mile to go I was perfectly placed, four bikes back and fully recovered. The wry grin on my face stretched closer to each ear as the pace quickened. We went from that mundane 22 to a lively 27 in a matter of seconds and I watched as we closed in on my launch point. I waited just one extra second and put the hammer down. I could feel the gang behind me, trying to chase me down but I kept my head low and the power up. With a cross-headwind I still managed a little over 32-mph and I powered it straight through the City Limits sign.
I felt like a hundred Dollars as I reset my computer for the slow mile-long cool down back to the car. Dinner was sweet.
My friend, Jonathan, texted me that he was having a tough time… he felt he had too much energy for the B Group but didn’t quite have what it takes for the A’s. I replied that I could relate. We’re both right on the edge, but I choose to stick with the B’s for two reasons. One, I have fun when we ride. Our road trips don’t include “get there-itis”. Sure we ride fast, but we take our time to savor the ride and snap a few pictures. We have a great balance of fun and fast. We get to do both when we’re not trying to hit a four hour century every time we go out. Second, I have fun. Almost every time I ride with my friends. I don’t want to turn my favorite hobby into work. I get enough of that at work.
The first time I ever heard someone share the concept of forgiving oneself as a part of the recovery process, I bought into it but it never “sat well” with me. I outgrew that phase of my recovery and never really looked back, until just yesterday I got an email from someone very close reminding me, “forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”.
And just like that, I put two and two together after all that time. I finally understand why it never sat well with me. Forgiveness is a gift I give myself”?! Forgiveness is a gift I give someone else, sure, but myself? Let’s turn that on its head for a second.
As practicing alcoholics we wreak a lot of havoc. We are tornadoes through the lives of others. Anyone who believes otherwise is ignorant or mistaken, or both. We have a lot to atone for as we enter recovery. As a part of the “clearing up the wreckage of our past” phase of recovery, we set about doing exactly that. The more we hesitate, the more painful the process, the closer we come to having that next drink. Better, in my experience, to rip that band-aid off than beat around the bush.
I hesitated. I dawdled. I hid behind fear of the sharing my past with another. I hid because I had no idea how free I would feel once I was rid of that trainload of shit I’d been hauling behind me… right up until I didn’t dawdle anymore. Once I started unhitching the cars by performing the amends part of recovery, I went from crawl, to walk, to run, to rocket ship almost immediately.
Just sharing my past with someone else helped me to see over the pile I’d left behind me. Once I’d laid that out, becoming willing to be relieved of my shortcomings was almost instant. The amends process was a natural step and with each act, another car was loosed. I emerged from the amends process a free man.
Forgiving myself was no longer necessary because I did what was right. Forgiving myself naturally comes with sweeping up the street I littered with my $#!+. Therein lies the rub.
And that’s why that phrase never sat well with me. I didn’t have the experience or understanding to think through it back then, but here’s the nuts and bolts: If I haven’t cleaned up my wreckage, I have no business forgiving myself for anything. Sure, I can relax on the ass-kicking machine as I work through the process, but self-forgiveness comes only with cleaning up my mess and forgiving others. It’s what happens last, not first.
Just a thought. Recover hard, my friends. I know I’ve got another drunk in me. What scares me straight is, I don’t know if I’ve got another recovery.
We rolled out Sunday morning, a perfect morning for a bike ride, at 7:30. A big group for the pre-ride, upwards of 20. That wasn’t going to last, but the company was enjoyed while it did.
We kept the pace tame for three miles before kicking it up a notch. The 18-mph start was inched up to 20 into a barely there headwind. And that’s where the pace stayed until mile 50.
And that’s exactly when it got fast. The tandem was playing around on the rollers, then my wife charged. Then I charged, and the double pace-line turned into a single-file hammer fest. Over the next 48 miles, just eight were slower than 20-mph. Most of the remaining 40 were north of 22.
We lost one of our hammers who cut out to get to work but five or six of us managed to hammer the miles out steadily. The mix was interesting for the first fifty miles in that we’d have the hammers up front who would ratchet up the pace, but then we’d have a few get up front who would slow the pace down a bit so we could all catch our breath. All of that went out the window as the slower group of riders began fading, with about 20 miles left. Before I knew it, we had four hammers and we were all alone.
With ten left, a point where I’m normally toast, I was feeling really good – surprisingly good. I had some gas in the tank and we were busting out miles well north of 22-mph. It was Winston, who was the main driver, Chuck, Chuck and me. The Chucks and I did our time up front but truth be told, we rode Winston like a red-headed rented mule. The younger Chuck was starting to fade fast and I worried about the older Chuck, so when I got up front I sat right at 23 and gave it my mile and asked Winston to keep it there as I faded back.
We started catching up on a large group up ahead, though. Everyone in our small rabble has a bit of “chase ’em down” in us – we love to chase cyclists down, especially a large group like the one we had in front of us, so Winston did what Winston does and we hammered down the road after the group. A few miles up the road, Winston asked if that was the group we’d dropped eight miles back. I responded that it couldn’t be, that there really wasn’t a shortcut they could have used to get that far ahead of us. A mile later, it dawned on me that there was one shortcut that chopped a mile and a half off. They’d taken it and we were closing in on them fast.
We passed them with less than a mile to go, my tongue dangling precariously close to my spokes and we rode across the line with a 20.4-mph average (32.8 k/ph). My average power for the 4:50 minute ride was 184w with a manageable 1,850 feet of up. They don’t make them much better than that, my friends.
Unfortunately, I’d learned my wife had dropped fifteen miles earlier with another rider so I looped back around to ride back to her. I stopped my Garmin so I could post it here, then dropped down into the little ring and began to spin back to her. A quarter-mile later my legs started cramping up. Bad. My buddy Mike had already gone up the road after her so I turned back around to the car before I seized up so bad I had to walk…
My wife and I had picked up a watermelon on the way to the start so I pulled that out and cut it up. I took a piece, as did my friends. My wife rolled in just five minutes later and I had a slice waiting for her. That, in combination with a bottle of Gatorade straightened me out. We packed up and headed home. I had to eat a little crow for dropping my wife, but we worked it out without a raised voice and were smiling by the time we hit our driveway five minutes later.
For those riding the 100 miler next Sunday, I rode the route on Sunday: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/30823346
The link to the Event page on RideWithGPS, it has all the routes: https://ridewithgps.com/events/63400-assenmacher-100
I love to go fast. I can relax and have a good time with the best of them; that’s a part of riding daily as I do, but when we’re cruising as a group, north of 22-mph, that’s when I’m having the most fun….
A cyclist was hit last week, only a mile-and-a-half from my house. It was a hit-and-run. From what I’ve pieced together from several different accounts, it sounds like the bike rider may have been riding on the wrong side of the road from an account of a neighbor who passed him just a minute before he was hit. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. The driver of a large, black RAM pickup didn’t give him enough room and hit him in the head with his mirror and knocked the rider into the ditch while knocking the mirror off his truck.
He then backed into someone’s driveway and took off, leaving the leisure rider in the ditch, bleeding from the head, ears and nose, to die.
From there, without giving away too much, the police ended up with the motorist’s plate number due to a stroke of sheer luck. When the police visited the motorist’s home with the truck’s mirror and confronted him, the motorist lied and said he’d sold the truck more than a year back, and he’d forgotten the name of the person he sold it to. The police asked to check his pole barn before they left, and he stated, “Not without a warrant”. The police asked the neighbor if they could walk his property line to have a look. They found the truck parked behind the pole barn and arrested the man.
The bike rider, amazingly, is recovering. From what I’ve heard, he’s about 8 out of 10 and improving.
Folks, that shit shook me up pretty bad. I’ve recently wondered whether I might want to switch to gravel riding to get out of most of the traffic. On the one hand, I’m not dumb enough to ride on the wrong side of the road. And I don’t leave home without my helmet… On the other, the motorist just left the guy in the ditch to die. How f***ing depraved do you have to be to smoke a person in the head and drive away?! F***! Of course, all things being equal, if I was hit on a back, dirt road, I’d never be found (actually, I would. I use a Garmin with crash detection and notification).
In the end, though, in all seriousness, I really do live on the edge of cycling heaven. We have hundreds of miles of paved roads with light traffic on which to ride, and now that I’ve figured out how to effectively avoid traffic using my radar… well, I feel a lot safer, anyway.
Still, I pulled the gravel bike out of the garage the other day and knocked the cobwebs off. I lubed up the chain a bit and filled the tires to 50 psi (they were down to 10) and rode the back roads with Chuck on Friday and my wife yesterday. Both days were slow. Both days a little boring. Oh, but it was nice to get out of the traffic for a minute.
I just might stick to gravel on the solo rides for a while. Until I can get my head right.
Still though, it all comes down to the speed. I just love the speed. And the toys. Mostly the speed, though. Going fast makes me smile.
My Trek 5200 has been a work in progress since the day I brought it home. I’ve put some serious miles on that beautiful bike.
Wait. Back up a minute. Technically, the bike wasn’t so beautiful when I brought it home. It was a shop loaner. The owner took pity on me because I didn’t have much money back then, but I had a serious zeal for cycling, so he sold me the bike at a bargain price. Three hours after I’d brought it home I had it presentable enough for photos.
Then, the procession of new parts. A new saddle was immediately necessary. The old saddle was a 155mm and my butt is a 143…
The wheels broke a short time later, so new wheels. Pedals were next, because I upgraded from mountain to road shoes. Then a handlebar, shifters… and then the paint job because some @$$-hat knocked it off the rack at a fun ride… and while I was at it, a new headset. Then, to complete the transformation, I upgraded it from a triple 9-speed to a compact double 10-speed. A new, -17° longer stem dropped the cockpit considerably and stretched me out a little better. Then an upgrade to the wheels – a spectacular set from my Venge went to the Trek after I bought a carbon set for the Specialized… Then a new saddle… and another new saddle… and voila!
The setup on the Trek is now so close to my Specialized Venge, it’s hard to feel the difference riding the two bikes. Saddle height is obviously the same, the handlebar is the same distance off the ground on both bikes, and the reach is the nearly identical.
So, no sooner than I take a look at that spectacular remade steed and I’m thinking…
Well, hey, if I get some new brakes on there, maybe something that could take a wider rim (say, new black 105 brakes), I could get a new set of carbon wheels for the Trek… Then it really would be complete. For real.
To tell you the truth, I hope my wife doesn’t read this post, because she’d $#!+. I’m not supposed to want anything more for the Trek… but those carbon fiber wheels are so fast… and black 105 brakes? How could I not want those on a blacked out bike?!
For now I’m going with “the alloy wheels, even though they’re a little heavier, stop a whole lot better than the carbon wheels do – and in the conditions I ride the Trek, stopping well is a necessity.
I think that’ll work for a little while anyway.
As good as my Trek is, and it is great, there’s always one more thing, isn’t there?