We were set to start riding at 8:30 and I knew my role. My buddy Mike is coming back from knee surgery, he got a new one, and he’s built up his base, so now it’s time to work on speed.
I was to be the rented mule into the headwind.
This has been a new development during COVIDcation, something that I’ve worked into my daily rides with my wife to get a better workout out of a slower pace. I take all of the headwind up front. In doing this, we go faster into the headwind than we normally would sharing turns up front, and by the time I get to the half-way point of a 45-mile ride, I’m freaking smoked. It takes effort just to keep up with my wife in the tailwind… and this has given me a new appreciation for riding into the headwind – I found a way to like a headwind. That is my role and I’m freakin’ good at it.
I started early, at 7:30 to get some bonus miles in before the main. I wanted a 100k out of the day and I knew I’d be tired after our ride… and it had been a while since I’d put the hammer down. I figured I could get some speed-work out of my system so I was less likely to get antsy about pace while out with Mike and my wife. I also took my Trek rather than the Venge.
I put in 13 miles at just shy of a 20-mph pace before taking it easy the last mile back to the house to spin some lactic acid out of my legs. I waited for Mike to show up, and my wife to come out the door. Assembled, lightly, we rolled out.
The first eight miles had a crosswind so we rolled at a fair, conversational pace. Then we turned left, dead into a 15-mph headwind. It was my turn to burn. I headed to the front and picked a pace I could settle into. 15+-mph headwind, 16 to 17-mph pace and I churned out mile after mile, just fast enough nobody was talking or dropping.
Just like that we were into crosswind and the ride got glorious in a hurry. Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty spectacular, maybe a touch crispy, but I still spent a lot of time up front. Mike was starting to wear out in the tailwind and we dropped him a couple of times but we regrouped and I still managed to pick up a 4th overall on a big 7-mile-long segment we cranked out at better than a 24-1/2-mph average. The high point for me was a mile-long stretch that’s slightly downhill after a little rise. I have no idea why I like it so much, but I just love to hammer that mile out. I put the pedal(s) down just over the rise and quickly took my pace from a nice 25-mph up the rise to 33 where I held it for the mile before the road pitched up again. There’s just something about that 30-mph pace on a skinny-tire bike that puts a huge smile on my face… I pulled to the side of the road at the next intersection and waited for the group to catch up.
Unfortunately, traffic messed up my plan to start ahead of the small rabble and let them catch up. I had to wait for them to pass, then chase them down… I was up to 28-mph to gain on them. When I did catch up, then I was crispy. I didn’t do much messing around after that, and with just five miles left, I settled down. Three miles left, my wife took the front and I could tell she was cooked. Her head cocked to one side, she was looking down at her stem cap rather than up the road. Then she started drifting with the crosswind – bad enough I couldn’t draft her, I had to ride behind her and eat wind, but she wouldn’t come off the front. After trying once tactfully, and unsuccessfully, to get her to pay attention, in a moment of idiocy and exhaustion, I blew up to shake her out of her funk.
I knew I was going to have to make amends for that one but I was still a mile-and-a-half short of my 100k. I’d let my wife know I was going to be short and add several miles back, so I simply rolled beyond my driveway, north with a tailwind and west with a crosswind for the full mile and a half… I didn’t want to have to crawl home into the wind on the clock, and crawl I did. I stopped my Garmin with the requisite 62.3 miles and turned around to head home. In the baby ring. And just shy of the granny gear.
I made my apology to my wife the second I walked in the door. We were right after, for the rest of the day.
I spoke with my buddy, Mike a little bit later and he was doing well. Prior to our ride, his best solo average was in the mid-16-mph range. He was well over 18 for the day yesterday and he was feeling very good about it… and that meant I felt good about it because I helped him get there.
Oh, and we were short sleeves and shorts most of the ride. Temps in the sunny mid 60’s, and it was glorious. And the forecast for today is even better.
This is a relatively short post, but I’ve got a gem laying out in the open at the end – a shortcut into a decades long understanding of recovery. Don’t miss it.
I’m heading back to work next week after my layoff due to the COVID-19 virus and scare. I’ve been off for more than a month and a week. Prior to this, my longest vacation was two weeks and I only managed to pull one of those off in 27 years.
I was never sure of the money end of the layoff. We were told unemployment benefits would be available, but I didn’t trust it. The Federal Government had EIDL and PPP schemes but they ran out of money long before normal folks like me could even sign up. We immediately did what we could to minimize our bills. We even took the insurance off my vehicle (technically, it was put in “storage” so it was covered in the event a tree fell on it or something crazy). We spent wisely on groceries and ended fast food purchases. And my family thrived under the “lock down”. I had more fun than a fella should be allowed to have.
We spent most days together, watching movies, playing games, tending to yard work – we even taught my youngest to play euchre. And I caught up on about 20 years of sleep. It was, without question, a glorious time off when many were struggling, I enjoyed almost every day. Make no mistake, though. The reason we were able to enjoy this was that, even with some economic insecurity, we had enough money in the bank to make it, even if it would be ugly without assistance.
After three weeks, the money started rolling in. We got a stimulus check from the Feds, then a week later, unemployment started up. We could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
As recovery went, I spoke to sponsors when I needed, I attended some Zoom meetings, and I even went to a few “bandit” meetings where we’d meet in a parking lot on lawn chairs, using the parking stripes as markers so we were well beyond our “6 feet” or “two meters”. I felt connected with my fellow AA’s and my recovery grew and progressed. I was given a new understanding of “going to any length to stay recovered”, and I loved it.
I was grateful for every day I had (there were two or three where my wife and I struggled to figure out how to occupy the same house together, sunup to sundown, but we got there – in the end, we thrived even in that pressure cooker).
This was the existence I prayed for when I asked God to help me recover. My end was that I’d give recovery everything I had. I lived up to my end and my Higher Power exceeded His. It’s not perfect, but I have the tools at my disposal to enjoy life on life’s terms – even when those terms are challenging.
There once was a time, decades ago, when my recovery revolved around repairing the progression of my disease, repairing the damage done by an astounding use of drugs and alcohol in a short period of time and the wreckage I created to stay high. The focus changed for the better years ago. My focus is no longer on distancing myself from my addiction, but on growing in recovery.
During a zoom meeting, one of the readings touched on the progression of the disease and that was chosen as the topic. As I sometimes do, I had to modify that topic a little bit to suit where I’m at today:
Life today, for me, lies not in the progression of my disease, but the progression of my recovery. It has for a long time, really. It just took a decade or so to fully understand the meaning.
I enjoyed COVIDcation because working the steps when life turns sideways is natural. I have recovered from a seemingly impossible state. And with God’s grace, I’ll continue that today. One day at a time. Just for today.