I think it’s fitting, this last day of “Gratitude Month”, I write something about the person I’m most grateful for, my wife. She puts up with a lot to have loved me this long (24 years together, 22 married)…
As I go, one of the toughest but, by far, the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given pertaining to marriage is to keep the focus on me when it comes to negative interactions with my wife. This goes back to the old Biblical concept of not worrying about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, but the stick in mine.
When things aren’t going well in our marriage, from little things all the way up to huge issues, I try to keep the focus on me. It’s too easy to focus on my wife’s faults in issues. To be distracted by what I think she’s doing wrong… Even when my wife is at fault, rather than concentrate on her flaws, I try to look at how I can be a better me to bring her back.
This is not easy. F***, is it hard. But it works. Every time, without fail.
I don’t have to be a door mat to anyone, but do I want to be right, or happy. That’s not a question, and it’s very rare you get to be both.
A marriage counselor told me the easiest way I’ve ever heard to keep this in perspective, years ago…
He said, “Jim, if not for your wife’s flaws, she’d have picked a better man.”
My wife and I started the weekend, Friday afternoon, drifting apart, on two separate rafts. Every time I wanted to point the finger of blame for our drift, I remembered that saying and looked at what I could bring to the situation to improve things. By the time Saturday rolled around, we were on the same raft and laughing together. It was as simple as, rather than sitting on the couch, watching Michigan crush Indiana, I went to the apple orchard and shopping for dinner supplies with my wife. By the time we walked into the grocery store, we were on the same raft again.
I could have been right. Happy is much better.
Recover hard, my friends.
My friends, I’m a bit of a chicken sandwich aficionado.
I know my chicken sammiches. I’m also partial to the spicy chicken sammiches.
I’ll just get right to it. It’s not worth stabbing someone, but I’m here to tell you, folks, that’s one tasty chicken sandwich.
It ranks right up at the top of my list. Definitely worth the hype. And the long lines.
The fondness I have for my Specialized Venge is well known on this page. Enough, that should be the only reference needed.
That’s one gorgeous piece of 15-1/2 pound plastic, carbon fiber sheet, epoxy, aluminum and titanium. I hand-picked every part that went on the bike, and until yesterday, the only original parts left were the frame, fork and chainrings.
The one thing that drove me a little batty, from day one, mind you, was the brushed aluminum chainrings. When you look at that otherwise immaculate photo above, where do your eyes go? The chainrings. They stick out like a sore thumb! Day One, August 2013:
Now, it’d be awful shallow of me to change the chainrings only for their color. Heavens to Murgatroyd, no!
On the other hand, were I to also rectify the chainring size, dropping from a 52/36 combo to a 50/34… well, then it makes all the sense in the world!
And now I can run my Venge on a 50/34, 11-28 drivetrain which means I go from struggling on a 15% grade to struggling on a 25-ish% grade. I see plenty of the former, not many of the latter, at all.
I also dropped some weight, but not enough to write home about.
With a special deal from Jenson, I got away with the chainrings for a little more than a song, and considering how fast they discontinue chainrings, better to have them now, than not.
It took all of fifteen minutes to strip off the old, clean the bike where towels normally couldn’t go, and put the new on. I can tell you this, it was so fast, I won’t mind taking them off for my yearly cleaning in the future.
Sadly, the Venge is put up till spring, but I’ll be able to do a lot more with it next season.
The first years in recovery weren’t easy for me. At first, the excitement of finally breaking King Alcohol’s grip got me through but I soon understood a lot more work lay ahead. There were days I was wracked with fear. How was this going to work out? How could it work out? After everything I did, why did I get to be saved?
I kept coming back, though. No matter what, I didn’t quit quitting. If my ass would have fallen off, I’d have put it in a bag and taken it to a meeting so someone could show me how they put theirs back on. That’s how it works.
Eventually, and commensurate with the amount of work I was willing to put into it, the pink clouds dissipated and the sunshine hit my face. It is glorious, that feeling, and not to be missed.
The best part? I’m remembering all of this through the benefit of hindsight. Back then, I thought I was doing pretty well (with the exception of those fear-filled days and nights. Those pretty much sucked).
Today, life is so good, I’m so filled with gratitude, that all I want is to have another today, just like yesterday. If I’m that fortunate, I’ll consider myself a blessed guy. This is the miracle sobriety brings when a person works for it. I am not special, not even a little bit. This happens every time, without fail. It’s promised to everyone.
I thank God on a daily basis that it came to be for me. This joy and contentment I get to feel isn’t overly exuberant – it’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a calm, relaxed, enthusiastic, fun joy.
In terms of cycling, it isn’t a screaming descent or an arduous climb… it’s a series of rollers where each downhill is just enough to get me to the top of the next peak with a little effort. (If you’ve ridden the Horsey Hundred in Kentucky, you know exactly what I mean)
It’s something all I can hope for is to be able to pass it on to someone else, because this is worth quitting for. I imagine this is exactly what I wanted, only better, when I asked God to help me by relieving me of my desire to drink. I promised I’d give sobriety everything I had if God (as I understood God at the time) would help me.
I lived up to my end of the bargain. God over-performed.
Happy Thanksgiving my friends. I hope you have a lot to be thankful for and you get to enjoy your Holiday. If you’re not quite there yet, keep coming back and working at it. With some work and humility, you’ll get there and you’ll bask in the freedom.
For everyone outside of the USA, if nobody’s wished for something for you to be grateful for today, let me be the first.
There are reports emerging, in which people are claiming that the quip, “okay Boomer” is ageist.
Actually, the quip isn’t ageist. It’s funny as hell, and that’s the “why” behind the contortions to make this a slur against age. It’s not.
The claim that something is ageist, sexist, racist, or any other “ist” there is, when that something clearly is not, is the last, desperate argument of a scoundrel.
Got that, Boomer?
Keeping an eye on the Weather Channel all day long, it looked like we were going to ride a razor’s edge trying to fit in one more night ride before the weather turned poor. All day long, the rain line jockeyed between 6 and 7 pm… and then, around 3 in the afternoon, the line was pushed back to 8 pm.
Chuck and I had been texting back and forth all day long. I shot a quick text to Jonathan that we were riding at 5 – a little earlier than usual, just to make sure we wouldn’t get wet. The text between Jonathan didn’t mention “rain” or “wet” or even cloudy… that poor guy has absolutely the WORST luck when it comes to having to choose to ride in the rain or inside on the trainer over the last three months. I wasn’t about to tempt fate last night.
We started out fast and stayed fast until I ran out of gas around 14 miles in. I was starting to get hungry. We sat up for a minute but picked the pace back up again (my fault) as we headed for our next turn… and then, muck. It looked like the grater had gone through, maybe a day earlier. The mud on the road was an inch, to six inches deep (15 cm). We made it about 50 yards – I almost fell over twice – and decided to turn around and head back on the road we’d been on. That cut a bunch of miles off our ride, though, so we talked about how to add on at the end, on paved roads.
The pace on the dirt was between 16 & 20-mph, but picked up to north of 20 on the pavement. We were cruising heading west, but when we turned to head home, I found out why; the wind had picked up and was pushing us. When we headed back the other way, it was a bull-rush right in the face. I thought I was doing pretty well at about 18-mph, but Chuck came by and took the pace back up over 20 – and I was perfectly fine with that three bikes back.
We ended up pulling into the driveway with 23-1/2 miles and just a shade better than a 16-mph pace… and yet another occasion to clean the gravel bike. It was mucked up, but good. I even had to pull the cassette.
Well, there won’t be any riding outdoors today as there’s a rain storm parked over the State, but we’ll be out on the paved roads tomorrow morning. Friday, too.
And then, winter.
What a horrible start to a Monday…
It’s a rare day I need a ride as bad as I did last night. It was worse than a typical Monday by an order of magnitude. I was even sick to my stomach for a bit… all work related, and I don’t know if I was ever that fired up over work. The day did get better as it wore on, however, as I calmed down I formulated a plan to manipulate the situation to our favor and got to work. I could put a positive spin on the “manipulation” bit, but it’s an honest program and I’m gonna manipulate the $#!+ out of this one…
We’ve got a couple of nice days (by this year’s standards, they’re really only average) strung together, so we talked about a night ride during Sunday’s ride and Jonathan texted to ask if something was getting put together… I sent out the text Sunday afternoon. When Jonathan pulled into my driveway and I knew we’d have a decent group, I was freakin’ stoked.
We rolled out at 5:30, deciding to stay on the pavement because the dirt roads were a little dicey. Then, just three miles in, and in the pitch dark, we decided to give the dirt a try. Nobody wanted to mess with traffic and a dirty bike isn’t all that big a deal. We decided on a new route we’d never tried before, too.
The ride was a little mucky, but it was fun. The pace wasn’t outrageous, but it was enough for a workout without getting too silly. We cruised the dirt roads for a while, then did part of our “Jimmer Loop” backwards, then headed back on the dirt roads before spending the last few miles on pavement again.
I came up with a name for the route over the course of the ride, but it really came together in the last few miles. Chuck calls our normal summer route “The Jimmer Loop”, so I came up with “The Dirty Chucker”… and for Strava, I added “With Reverend Lotsa Watts and the Funky Bunch”. I chuckled for more than a few minutes over that.
We pulled into the driveway with just shy of a 16-mph average – decent for a night ride, excellent for a night/dirt ride. After a rough start to the day, the 21 miles was more than enough to get me back to right and put a smile on my face. I slept like a baby last night.
When life hands you lemons, ride. It’s better for your figure than lemonade.
How To Become a Fast Cyclist; The Tools You’ll Need, Plus the One Single, Most Important Factor That’ll Allow One to Achieve Fast…
I am fortunate enough to be in the upper crust of cyclists (I almost used the word “lucky”, but luck has/had nothing to do with it). Locally, I’m in the second tier of riders, but I’m told by visitors who happen by our group, our B Group is everyone else’s A Group, so I’m also fortunate to have a great pool of exceptional cyclists to ride with who consistently help me improve. I’ve been riding with the same group for seven years and we, as a group, have increased our average pace over our usual 28+ mile course from 20.5-mph to well over 23-mph. The A Group increased from 21.5 to 25-mph over 32 miles (and change). Keep in mind, this is all on open roads… we have to stop for stop signs. If we were to close the course so we didn’t have to worry about traffic, we’d easily be able to maintain 24-ish and 27-ish mph averages.
I detailed, specifically, the workouts I did, from day one on a mountain bike two sizes too small, to get fast in this post if you’re interested.
I love that post. It’s one of my most popular of all-time, but it’s missing a little something. What’s more important than simply going fast, which anyone can do with the right equipment and desire, is being happy on the bike. Some people have to push it to the edge to smile, and for those folks, more power to their pedals. This is why I ride with the B Group rather than the A’s. With a little work, I could ride with the faster group. I’m infinitely happy with the friends I ride with, though. I don’t need to be any faster. So, my point is this: Enjoy cycling first. If you’re still willing to put in the work required to be fast, read on.
Next, on to the important stuff. The equipment you’ll need is important to the discussion. You absolutely can get away with an aluminum bike in a fast group; I have two friends who ride aluminum road bikes – well, only one, now. One guy finally picked up a Venge. The second guy rides a high-end Specialized Allez with Zipp wheels, a Specialized Aerofly carbon handlebar and all the bells and whistles you’d want on a high-end race bike. Basically, he rides the equivalent of an aluminum Venge. He, and four others, hold the World Record for cross-state travel. In other words, you don’t need carbon fiber to succeed (though it certainly doesn’t hurt).
More important is the component set, or groupset. At a minimum, you’ll want Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival. Better, Ultegra or Force. I left Campagnolo out, but that’d be the Potenza or Chorus lines… or Record and another $800 to $1,000… The 105 and Rival levels are the entry-level race sets. Anything below those and you have to deal with inadequacies and inefficiencies that get in the way of maintaining speed. You could get away with Shimano Sora, but the 9-speed drivetrain leaves “cadence holes” – gaps in cadence between cogs, greater than 10 RPM. 11-speed is preferable, though I do fine with 10-speed.
I’ve got one of each component sets; an Ultegra bike and a 105, the only difference between the groupsets is weight. They operate about the same, which would be excellently.
Next, and just as important as the groupset, are the wheels if you want to be fast. Without question or exception, unless you’re freakishly strong, you’ll want a decent set of wheels on that bike. On my good bike, shown above, I’ve got 38 mm carbon fiber wheels. Some prefer 50 mm at a minimum but we deal with a lot of wind during the beginning and end months of a season. I chose a rim that would be compliant in higher winds. Alloy wheels are fine, though we would want to look for something with a decent aero profile, if possible. I also prefer bladed aero spokes. The important point with wheels is that they roll well. The original wheels that came with my Venge are absolutely horrible – I can’t stand them. They’re easily a mile an hour slower than the Velocity/Vuelta set on my Trek (below). While you’ll want a good set of wheels, good doesn’t have to mean expensive. I’ve only got $550 into the Velocity/Vuelta wheels below. My Ican wheelset was less than $500.
I’ve got Velocity Fusion rims with Vuelta Hubs (sealed bearings) with 24 mm tires on my Trek
Now, let me be exceptionally clear here, all of the aero stuff in the world won’t make you faster – that stuff makes fast easier. If you’re thinking you’re going to buy a set of aero wheels and an aero bike with an aero handlebar and you’re going to jump from a 16-mph average to 20, you’re going to be deeply disappointed to find you just blew $5,000, you’ve got no excuses left, and the real problem all along was the engine. Of course, at least you’ll love the new bike!
The final factor in fast is your bike’s weight. This is usually taken care of by choosing a decent wheelset and higher-end components. Even an aluminum bike will be fairly light with a Dura-Ace groupset and decent wheels. Bike weight is behind rider weight, of course, and losing rider weight is free. The important point here, fast will be easier, considerably so, on a 15 pound bike than it will on a 24 pounder.
To put a bow on this post, the last, and without question, most important factor in the quest for speed, the thing that separates the men and women from the boys and girls, was mentioned earlier in this post as “desire”.
Simpler, and the way I like to say it, is “want to”. A light, fast bike with fantastic wheels and a Dollar will get you a cup of coffee without “want to”. In fact, as fast as I am, once I ran out of “want to”, that was it… I only got faster when and because the group got faster. I am just as fast on my 1999 Trek 5200 (right) as I am on the “aero everything” Specialized Venge (left) – even with the alloy wheels on the Trek. In fact, up until just this year, four full seasons after I bought my Venge, my fastest ride ever was on my trusty, old Trek. And the Trek is three pounds heavier.
New, carbon fiber, aero bikes are fantastic. All of that carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium look awesome and you can bank on the fact that they’re fun to ride.
But without want to, that crap is useless.
Ride hard, my friends.
I’ve only got 25 miles to cross 6,000 outdoor miles for the year, and I should hit that this morning…
It was a cold start yesterday morning. At just 24° (-4 C), but there wasn’t much wind and the sun was out, so at least it wasn’t brutal.
In fact, after a wet couple of weeks, the cold froze the dirt roads so we could skip asphalt.
We rolled out at 8:30 am and hit frozen dirt almost immediately. The ride was advertised as an easy, fun pace and that’s exactly where we kept it. I can’t remember a cold weather ride that was more enjoyable. I was dressed just right, possibly a touch on the warm side, so I was never uncomfortable, and the company was awesome.
Sadly, not long after the 14-mile mark, with the sun warming the air, it also warmed the frozen roads. They started turning to mush just seven miles from home.
It was fantastic being outside, riding with my wife, a friend, and a new friend. I’ve been stuck on the trainer so long, it was fun.
Now for the surprise. About six or seven miles from home, I hear John, a relatively new rider to the group, mention the Affable Hammers to Diane. My wife and I were talking a couple of yards ahead, side by side. The mention of the Hammers got my attention, though. He said something to the effect, there’s a blog out there and the guy writes a lot about the Affable Hammers…
A smile stretched across my face. I turned my head, the smile still across my mug, and said, “That’s me, man”. He said, “That’s so cool, I feel like I know you already”. We talked about blog stuff over the next few miles.
I’ve bumped into people who read my blog, people I never would have expected, about a half-dozen times, and every time it makes me feel good about what I do here. It makes all of the time I put into it worth the effort. Thank you, John. You made my day.
We pulled into the driveway with 27.2 miles which got me to 5,976.1 miles for the year, according to Strava’s total… I should have 6,001 outdoor miles after today’s ride. As for overall miles (indoor and outdoor), I crossed over 7,700 yesterday – I’ll hit 8,000 for the year, easily(!). Too cool.
The Key To a Happy Life; Spoiler – It’s Not Having Everything Work Out In Your Favor. The Choice is Ours, and It Must Be Made.
Do you want to be happy, or not?
My sponsor asked me that question twenty-five years ago when I was just a wet-behind-the-ears noob in recovery. I had a couple of years in but I still had a lot of work in front of me.
Well what knucklehead doesn’t want to be happy?
There are those unfortunates who simply have to fight everything. First, they fight even the idea of a clean, sober life – there has to be a cheat, no? A Higher Power is simply beyond the pale. “Keep it simple, stupid” is an insult. What do you mean, I’m not being honest?! 90 meetings in 90 days? I have a life! The Big Book is out of date. The steps are only suggestions…
They are, actually, only suggestions; they are suggestions in the same respect you would suggest someone pulls the rip-chord on their parachute shortly after jumping out of an airplane. Sure, you can skip that step, but the sudden stop that comes next is gonna suck.
I wasn’t immune. I fought steps out of fear. Rather than just doing what I had to do, I concocted excuses to stall. This meant finding true freedom and happiness in recovery stalled as well. I almost stalled long enough that I thought about getting good and drunk… but I relented. I quit fighting and I got to work, throwing worry to the wind.
Those days are long behind me; I’ve learned time and time again, it’s best just to be honest and get on with doing the next right thing. Freedom and happiness will wait on anyone who believes procrastination in cleaning one’s side of the street is the better option. The only question is, will you be able to outlast getting drunk when life stagnates, when it doesn’t get better?
That’s not worth taunting.
To the main point, though; I had a good conversation with a newer guy yesterday, who made the incorrect assumption that, because I’m such a happy guy, things must just work out for me. I immediately corrected him. When I walked away from my company, after thirteen years, I was pretty sure my life was going to suck, having to work for someone else again. Still, I cast that thought aside. I threw it away like you would a banana peel. That line of thinking was going to do me no good, number one. Number two, it was awful presumptuous of me, no? Number three, what kind of faith in my Higher Power would I be relying on by worrying needlessly about something I couldn’t control anyway? I could go on, but you get the idea.
A year later and I’m so grateful for walking away from my company, words fail me – and that’s saying something, my friends. Words rarely fail me. I’m making about the same money and I’ve got about a quarter of the stress. I’ve taken three vacations so far this year and I’m getting ready for another week off at the end of the year… My work load is a little hectic, but it’s certainly preferable to doing the same thing and chasing money at the same time. This move, while I initially feared it, turned out to be a wonderful, fantastic, surprise.
And if I’d have contaminated the move with my line of thinking, by continually sabotaging – actually, “poisoning” is a better word – what I was experiencing with negative thinking, I’d have missed the forest for the trees.
In other words, my friends, I am perfectly capable of being happy or miserable. The choice is entirely mine.
Just a thought. Recover hard, my friends.