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Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Best Reason Any Alcoholic or Addict Needs to Choose Recovery

I chose the words for the Title of this post carefully.

Recovery was a choice from the very first day. A perfect storm of three things crashing together all at once did the trick; a desire to not drink met with a desire to stop digging the hole I was in and a willingness to do anything to recover. A sponsor’s first request of me, the day I asked him to sponsor me, was to back into every parking spot I parked in for a full month. When I asked why, he simply said he’d tell me after the 30 days were up. I started at the next parking spot. 30 days later, I asked why. He said, “I wanted to see if you were willing to do what it takes [to recover]. If you’re not willing to do something as simple as backing into a parking spot, there’s no way you’d willing when the going gets tough”. I was willing. Most aren’t. Most would demand a reason or complain that the request was stupid. Most wouldn’t even start – and that’s why people struggle to find their foothold early in recovery.

I’d have stood on my head in the corner if my sponsor told me it would help me find peace and contentment in recovery. I’m not kidding, and the best part is, my idea of what peace and contentment would look like back then was so vastly below what I’ve got today, it’s enough to put a smile on my face as I write this.

With all of that said, the best reason an alcoholic or addict needs to choose a life in recovery?

I don’t have to live with the pain of knowing I’m digging my own grave, not a hole, and I can’t help be keep digging… that mental anguish was immense. If you work for peace and happiness in recovery, you’ll find it. Out in the madness, you won’t have a chance. It’ll kill you first. I’ve seen it happen more than once. It ain’t pretty. Almost as bad is sitting on the fence, between recovery and addiction. This is that “controlled use” fairytale, because you’ve gotta be in control! Invariably we find we’d be better off pissing into a 30-mph headwind, hoping to aim high so it’ll blow back over our head.

No thanks. Peace and contentment will do just fine, thank you. Recover hard, my friends. It’s worth it.

In Recovery, All I Really Have Is My Experience, Strength and Hope, On Loan From God.

When it comes down to it, every post I’ve ever written about recovery from alcoholism and addiction has come from my experience, strength and/or hope. Every single one. From the joys to the struggles in everyday life my posts tend to explore how everything in between fits in my day-at-a-time reprieve from addiction. I tend to lay a lot of personal detail out there because, while it may not be the wisest way to go about writing, I figured if I could help someone find, embrace or enjoy their recovery a little more or better, well it was all worth it.

This, I believe, is the way it should be when we deal with such a touchy subject as recovery. It’s only ever about how I do it, with the hope that might help others with their recovery… because once we get into how you should do it, all hell breaks loose (as it rightly should).

The best post I’ve ever written about recovery, written in 2012, was about what it was like when I finally quit fighting against recovery and let it happen. Since that November day in 1992, I’ve gone through such a transformation, it’s simply unbelievable. I asked God for help (whatever that comment is about foxholes, it works with recovery just the same), then accepted it as best I could. At first, it was a few minutes at a time. Then, one day at a time. One day turned into two, turned into a week, turned into a month, turned into a year. Twenty-four hours at a time, 10,320 times over… and I’ve known such peace and contentment with just being on the right side of the grass, it never ceases to amaze me just how good life can be.

Alas, as we all find out sooner or later, this life is only temporary. That experience, strength and hope is only on loan. Sooner than later, it is always returned to God. Best get busy enjoying it while we can.

Pulled the Trigger on The Black Bibs Again, Because They’re The Best Affordable Cycling Bibs/Shorts I’ve Ever Worn

I bought two more bibs from TheBlackBibs after some research I did the other day. The honest assessment of the off-brand, no-name bibs is that they’re no match for the upper-level brands, like Specialized bibs for example. Specialized has a Chinese company manufacture some impressive bibs, there’s no doubt about it. When I’m looking at a century (US, not metric), I’m reaching for the Specialized bibs every time. On the other hand, at just $40 a pair, BlackBibs simply can’t be beat. There’s no inexpensive brand I know of that feels so good after 60 miles. I don’t think the best testing field for bibs is the road, though. When I want to put a pair of shorts through the wringer, I like the trainer where you’re stuck sitting for most of the ride (if not all).

Hot Spots

The main problem with low-end bibs comes in the form of hot spots. Higher-end bibs have a way of keeping everything where it belongs so rubbing doesn’t cause irritation that leads to a most uncomfortable first 20 seconds in the shower. Low-end bibs have always caused problems for me. Except BlackBibs. Somehow, they got it right. I can ride as long as I want, on the trainer or outdoors, without having to worry about that first minute in the shower. In fact, I even opted for the cheaper $40 pair over the upgraded $65 pair with the silicone leg gripper seam. I very much like the no-grip seams… not great for the tan line if they ride up but the comfort factor is excellent. Another big plus is the material choice, both for the straps and shorts. I have a problem with the straps some brands use. I have actual, real pecs, so certain brands can rub me raw within 30 miles. I don’t have any problems with TBB bibs, on the road or on the trainer.

Since way back in 2011 when I first started this blog, I’ve always sought to aid in the approach to cycling as an “every person’s” sport, even if it can be (and I’ve often enjoyed it as such) prohibitively expensive. I’ve always tried to share good deals as a way of helping others enjoy the sport without having to blow an outstanding amount of money. In this case, on bibs and shorts that would normally cost four times more per pair if sold by a major manufacturer.

TheBlackBibs.com does bibs right.

I’m the guy on the left, yellow socks. In Black Bibs.

Cycling Performance and Stress; Work Stress Blasted My “Want To”, Probably My Performance, And How I’m Dealing With It.

I wrote about an article I read Sunday that held a couple of gems in it. The first, published yesterday, had to do with “living in the moment”. The second has to do with stress and I’ve been living under a mountain of it lately. This is not a bad thing. I don’t wake up dreading the day. I don’t drive to work thinking about taking time off or escaping. The stress is not “I can’t handle this” stress. It’s more, “I have a lot to fit into a little time, how do I improve so I can do this efficiently” stress (without the answer being “work longer hours”). I get to work 45 minutes before anyone else and I’m at it till I wrap up at quitting time – there’s barely time for anything but what’s next. I can tell you this, working like that sure makes the days go by fast.

Going back to that article, this is the second gem:

Professor Oliver says the biggest mistake he sees riders make is “overtraining and being too competitive while chronically fatigued”. If you’re in a high-pressure job requiring lots of concentration, you’re even more liable to hit upon problems. “Trying to be a high-level cyclist while doing a busy job… it’s just not possible.”

Now, it’s debatable about whether or not I’m a “high-level” cyclist. It would depend, I suppose on what how the levels are defined. If you go, low, medium and high, then I’d have to say medium-plus for me. I don’t necessarily think that’s how it’s supposed to work, though. I’d be willing to bet there’s low, medium, high, and elite. If that’s the case, I’m okay with putting myself in the “high-level” category.

With that out of the way, I’ve been quite open about my struggles of late. With both my new promotion at work, and, recently, in getting on the trainer to get ready for the spring cycling season that’s only a few weeks away. The quote above links the two in a way I hadn’t previously. I didn’t think the two would be inextricably linked… just, maybe, kinda linked in a way that could be pushed through for the person (me) with the right attitude and outlook on life. After all, real stress that effects the body is mental, right? Surely, if I fully accept where I’m at in this moment, then even though I’m busy, I should be able to develop a flow, yes?

I’m finding that’s not quite how this one’s working. I can tell you this, though; I’ll have this $#!+ figured out in three weeks or less! With spring (or at least, March) right around the corner, I have no choice! It’s not like I can, after a long, cold winter (it currently feels like -3 outside [that’s -19 C, folks] and we just got a fresh 10″ of snow last night), take all spring puttering about the neighborhood on my race bike – I have a Horsey Hundred and a long cycling season to get ready for!

I’ve taken seven days off in the last thirteen. I can’t remember two weeks like that since I started cycling (I’ve missed time on vacation, but even then we usually bring our bikes). After devoting some time to thinking about this, I pretty sure all of this is stress related. I’ve started taking action to calm myself down, but I want to make a point out of explaining something that’s very important here; I should have caught this weeks ago. Being Mr. Recovery, I should have seen the effects of the building stress. I live that $#!+, right? Well, yes, but. Sometimes it just doesn’t work like that.

In recovery, as they say, everything changes. As we grow, new challenges appear and we adapt to them. This is the way of things. One of the great lessons I learned early on is, when I’m feeling uncomfortable emotions (I learned with anger), I don’t have to fight it or stuff it down. It’s best to embrace how I’m feeling and explore it. Marinate in it, if you will. When I’m good and tired of feeling that way, I’ll be ready to take action and move on. Friday was my, “okay, that’s enough of this $#!+” day. I started with what always comes first. Prayer. Specifically, asking for the guidance, insight and inspiration… then calm and peace through the stress. Then, as is always the case, a clear path to work on appears and the stress starts to lose its grip. It works. If you work it.

A Key Benefit of Cycling In A Group Of Fit, Fast Cyclists: It Forces You To “Live In The Moment”

I was reading an article Sunday morning that offered some tips to cyclists training through the winter. Item six of ten got into the fear of crashing and riding alertly and defensively. I rarely, but do occasionally, grapple with a fear of crashing – those fears are fleeting along with exceedingly rare. I was just about to skip the bullet point as it had little to do with me when I happened on this gem:

Our doctors’ first piece of advice is not to drift off or daydream. “Live in the moment,” says Professor Oliver. “Use mindfulness as a coping strategy for endurance rides, to stay focused on what is going on around you.”

I’ve often wondered why it is I’m not petrified when I’m riding with my friends, passing 32-mph as we ramp up for a sprint on Tuesday night, but there is no fear. I put a lot of stock in that I ride with an exceptional group of people (of this, there’s no doubt). It also has a lot to do with the reality that, although we’re exceedingly fast (23-mph average on open roads for 28-ish miles), we are not racing. We stick to the club ride with a goal of keeping the pack together at great speed. Oh, sure, we fracture at the end when the sprint goes, but that’s to be expected. The entire core of our group cares about the other person, though, and that’s quite fantastic to be a part of.

This doesn’t explain the lack of fear though. It only gives hope to why fear would be minimal.

I believe, having thought deeply about this, there’s no fear because we are literally living in every moment – there’s no room for drifting off at 25-30-mph, you simply can’t. There’s no daydreaming, thinking about work, home life, or anything else. For between 70 and 74 minutes over that 28 miles and change, you’re only one place; in the pack with your friends. And that’s just Tuesday nights. I ride with fast friends over the weekends as well, and I added Thursday last year as well.

It gets better…

As I progressed in cycling, rarely missing a Tuesday night (our fast night), the practice of staying in the moment on the club ride grew veins that stretched out to the rest of my life. I didn’t realize it as it happened, because being a member of the recovery community I’d practiced living in the moment for decades already, but through practice at being captive in the moment I got better at it. When there’s nowhere to go but right here and now, because to drift could be disastrous, it opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of what “living in the moment” could be.

And it is good..

Within a few short years of taking up cycling, the sport became more than just a way of staying fit or losing weight (or staying the same weight). The more I ride, the more I enjoy cycling, the more I can grasp the why in the benefits as they are revealed… the better it gets. So shall it ever be.

There was more than one gem in the article linked above, but this was the one that had an “ah-ha” moment in it for me. More to come…

Create Your Own Cycling Ringtone for Your Phone (I Did. Yup).

I was sitting at my desk when a text came through and my standard chime alerted me. I hate that chime… it sets me on edge.

I have custom ringtones for everyone that matters to me. Breathe by Ministry for my wife. The Imperial March from Star Wars for my eldest daughter, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die” from Despicable Me for my youngest daughter, the Miami Vice Theme for my wife’s family in Florida, the Knight Rider theme for all of my cycling friends (all 40 of them)… and I do a custom ringtone for all other calls (currently Insolence Poison Well – it’s BAD@$$… I love hearing my phone ring).

I make all of my own ringtones, too, so I don’t have to pay for music, then pay for ringtones as well.

So that text tone at my desk… I thought, what short sound would put a smile on my face when a text comes through?

My Venge… my Venge makes me happy. My Venge shifting would make me very happy…

When I got home, I hooked my Venge up to the trainer, loosened the resistance knob, set up my phone’s recorder by the rear wheel, and recorded a few shifts and a second of freewheeling, then converted it to a ringtone.

Now, every time I get a text, it puts a smile on my face.

Heh.

If you don’t know how to create your own ringtone, a search engine and a keyboard will lead you to step-by-step instructions.

The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in a Group: How to Have Fun In A Pack (Without Having Heart Palpitations!)

Riding in a group can seem daunting to the newer cyclist. There’s a lot to it and you’re not wrong to be nervous. I was scared, myself. Quite, actually. The fear wasn’t unfounded, either. It only takes one little careless mistake at decent speeds and a pileup can happen, hurting a lot of people. My fear was based on a lack of experience, though. Exactly none. It wasn’t long before I had a smile stretched across my face – roughly three miles. My first group ride was absolutely amazing… and I was dropped just eight miles in (it’s an everyone gets dropped ride). Fortunately, I wasn’t the first to drop. I had no idea where I was.

There are several things you can do to mitigate the risk of riding in a pack, though. It’ll be worth it to learn, too. Riding in a group, large or small, is more fun than a human being should be allowed to have (with their clothes on). Let’s take a serious look at some hard and fast tips that’ll help you have fun and stay as safe as you can… at 40 feet per second with only a foot betwixt your front wheel and the rear wheel of the cyclist in front of you.

  1. The single most important tip, the one that rises above them all, is exceedingly simple: you have to think of the other people you’re riding with. Cycling with a group is a group activity, after all.
  2. If you remember anything in this post, remember this: be Smooth, Consistent and Predictable.
  3. Do not stop pedaling at the front of the group. I made this mistake early on in cycling. Someone hollered out that we missed a turn so, naturally, I stopped pedaling and looked over my shoulder to discuss what we’d do (press on or turn around). The result was a bunch of my friends scattering so they didn’t run into my rear wheel. My mistake was in not signaling my intention to slow down with a “slow” hand signal first. See also #2. And #4
  4. Know your hand signals. Hand signals are vastly more important that verbal cues. Half the time, at speed, you can’t hear anything in the wind, anyway. Learn how the group you’re riding with flicks off the front (arm-flick or @$$ tap and point), how to signal for a turn, a slow-down, a stop, train tracks, roadkill, potholes, and gravel/debris. While you can have fun with the hand signals, be careful not to deviate from what is common with the group you’re riding with, lest someone in the group misses it (or misunderstands the signal).
  5. At first, you’re going to look at the wheel in front of you. Try not to fixate on it, though. Watching the wheel in front of you is natural till you develop a bit of cycling spatial awareness. Acquisition of your spatial awareness takes a lot of riding with others to master, but you’ll get there. Once you know where your wheel and the wheel in front of you are without staring, then you can start looking up the road, beyond the front of the group. This ability is a key to safety and allows you to see what’s happening up ahead so you have some time to process and take action should that be required. Taking action is immensely safer than reacting. A couple of summers ago, a friend had a catastrophic blowout of his front tire at 32-mph as we were reaching the final sprint launch point on our Tuesday night club ride. He was six or eight bikes in front of me but I actually saw him hit the rock in the road. He went down hard after valiantly trying to get to the side of the road, but everyone else in the 20-cyclist deep pack scattered and avoided the crash. This was solely due to the fact that we were all looking up the road rather than at the wheel in front of us. Had we been glued to the wheel ahead, the carnage from the resulting pileup would have been brutal.
  6. Don’t spend too long at the front of the pack. You’ll see people taking mile-long turns at the front of the group, sometimes more. DO NOT cook yourself at the front for vanity. You’re no good to the group knackered. Do your part, then flick off the front so you can latch on at the back and get your rest.
  7. Don’t overlap wheels. Say you overlap the wheel in front of you, their rear wheel, if they do something unpredictable and sweep your front wheel, you will go down. Their rear wheel is fixed and has 65% of their weight on it. Your front wheel turns and has 35% of your weight on it… you lose. Every time.
  8. DO take your lumps at the front. They call this “pulling through”. Some very, very bad cyclists will flick off at the same time as the person in front of them, leaving the third bike to make up a big gap to get equal to the cyclist on the other side of the pace-line (for a double, of course, this isn’t such a big deal in a single pace-line). Another no-no is flicking off to the back from the middle of the pace-line, leaving a gap for the person behind you to make up. If you’re second bike, take 20 seconds or so at the front before flicking off to the back. If you’re in the middle of the pack and absolutely have to get to the back, wave everyone else up (with your inside hand) and surge so you make up the gap for those behind you by riding off to the outside of the pace-line. In other words, don’t leave a gap for someone else to fill – leaving a gap for someone else is like expecting someone else to pick up your dirty socks… there’s a special name in cycling given to a bike rider who leaves a gap: twatwaffle. Don’t be a twatwaffle (I never grow tired of that name).
  9. If you have to flick to the back from the middle of the pack using #8, STAY at the back. You’re outmatched. You’re better off staying in the back out of the way than having to pull out from the middle more than once. Experienced riders will appreciate you staying in the back over getting in the way and creating gaps.
  10. If you’re staying at the back because you can’t pull through, DON’T participate in the sprint. Remember “twatwaffle”? Yes, that’d be the person who sits in on a club ride only to try to take the sprint at the end. They do that repugnant $#!+ in races, not on Thursday evening club rides.
  11. I could go on with another 20 items, but I don’t want to lose you… things like, “keep your bike properly maintained”, etc., etc., but one last good point will do; if you’re nervous about your first rides in a pack, just start with a slower group than you’re capable of hanging with. You won’t be taxed trying to hang on and the slower pace will give you the opportunity to learn how to hold a wheel, draft, bleed speed without hitting the brakes, gain your spatial awareness, and generally have a good time of it before you get serious and start hammering with the big dogs.

Dealing with a lack of “want to”… for the first time in a decade.

I suited up and climbed atop my Trek 5200, locked into my CycleOps trainer, shortly after 5 yesterday evening. I had Ocean’s Thirteen, an old favorite, on the TV as I started to pedal. My speed sensor kicked in and I was off. Two miles later, less than ten minutes into my 45 minute ride, I looked down to see my Garmin’s blank face. Dead battery.

I had barely broken a sweat, but I stopped pedaling, climbed down, undid my Garmin from its mount and went into the bedroom to plug it in.

I never bothered getting back on the bike.

I’d taken Monday and Tuesday off already. Folks, I rarely take three days off in a month. I don’t have a clue what’s gotten into me lately – I took three days off last week as well. Six of eleven days off? Who the hell am I?

I’m thinking this is not quite as insidious as I’m making it out to be. Well, I’m hoping it isn’t. At some point last week I realized that I’ve been going for a decade straight, including through the winter. I ride every day I possibly can from March till December, often till January… why should I continue that all the way through the winter? Why not take a few days off? And so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve given myself permission to simply take some days off now so that when March rolls around in a bit more than two weeks, I’ll be raring to go.

The interesting question I’ve got a couple of melon committee members playing badminton with is this; do I have to worry about this current lack of “want to” being an aberration or an infection? The vast majority of the committee knows this is the former and says not to worry. There are a few pernicious troublemakers on the back riser, though… and I’ll have to keep an eye on them. In the meantime, honestly, the break’s been quite nice.

More later.

Should Cyclists Use Rear AND Front Running Lights In Broad Daylight?

I received an email from Trek urging that we roadies should be flying a rear and front running light whenever we roll out… yeah… No.

So, about that. I’m a big fan of taillights. If I’m riding solo or in a group of less than fifteen, you can bet I’ve got my Garmin radar taillight on. Not only do motorists treat me better for having it, I’ve learned how to cheat traffic with the radar feature. It’s quite wonderful, actually.

That said, if I’m riding correctly (and in daylight) that front light is utterly useless. Maybe if I ever rode near a population center this would be different, but I don’t so I won’t bother.

A taillight in every instance… of course, I was riding in a small group before or after each of those photos were taken. For riding with the main group, say on Tuesday night when there’s regularly 10 or 20 of us, it’s a little different because, well, if you miss 20 of us going down the road in a double pace-line, a taillight wasn’t going to help.

I would simply suggest common sense (God help us all) should rule, here. In some cases, I imagine a front headlight could be useful. Use one if you feel it necessary.

UPDATE: In the comments section, the Idealcyclist made a great point for using a headlight when riding on narrow roads as seen in the UK and Europe. In that case, I could be persuaded to use a headlight… maybe a stem-mounted tiny blinker…

UPDATE II: The comments section will show what a sheltered life I lead! A good many of my friends like the front blinkie.

How Much Faster Is A Modern Superbike vs. How Cool Is A Modernized Classic? That’s THE Question.

Old school cool or cutting edge, and does it matter? Really? Bet your @$$ it does.

I absolutely love this subject because, for the cycling enthusiast (of a certain age), it tugs at the heartstrings. Many of us want to be able to say the steeds of yore are just as good as today’s carbon fiber blinged out rigs, with their disc brakes and lightweight carbon fiber aero wheels, aero frames, hidden cables (or in some cases, non-existent)…

We want to say the steeds of the past are just as good. But we can’t. Because they’re not. And I know what usually comes next; “but steel”… I know. But steel doesn’t stack up to carbon fiber. Oh, a steel bike is comfortable and a little more compliant, but pound for pound, literally, when you factor in being able to get the thing down the road at speed, give me my Specialized any day of the week and twice on Sunday: once at the Byron City Limits sign, then again at the Durand City Limits sign.

After rebuilding my now 22-year-old 5200 and putting carbon fiber wheels on it, I absolutely love the bike. It’s fairly light (18-1/2 pounds), nimble, and quite enjoyable to ride (especially with the 25-mm tires that barely fit between the chainstays). I kid you not, compared to what the bike was when I brought it home at a whopping 22 pounds, the bike is outstanding as it’s currently fitted out.

But, given reliably good weather, I’ll take my Venge every time.

For speed, the 5200 just can’t keep up with the vastly superior Venge – and I can ride and have ridden both bikes with the same wheelset, so I know for a fact it’s not “the wheels”. Having put a bit more than 30,000 miles on each bike, I know exactly what the difference feels like when putting the power down. The Specialized Venge leaps in comparison. It’s not even a fair fight. Compliance? The Venge wins without breaking a sweat. For virtually every performance category you can come up with, excepting a crosswind, the Specialized will win. Every stinkin’ category…

But there exists a non-performance category where an old steed can make up a lot of ground in a hurry; there’s just something extra cool about a well-kept, modernized classic road bike, especially now that virtually every aero bike on the market looks like every other aero bike on the market. And the best news is, while there is a difference between the modern superbike and the classic in terms of watts required to get the bike down the road, there isn’t enough of a difference it can’t be made up for with a little more “want to” and some shorter turns at the front.

And that’s where my old Trek 5200 shines. It’s not the hottest, flashiest, blingy-est bike around, but there isn’t another like it within a half-dozen surrounding states.

And that flare makes up for a lot of performance shortcomings when stacked against a modern superbike. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face… or maybe that smile is because spring is right around the corner. Likely a bit of both. It was -1 F (-18 C) this morning.