Recovery doesn’t work as often as it should… until we get to where people are actively “working on” their recovery. At that point we get to something like an 85% success rate (it’s something like 90% make one year, then 85% of those make five, but those numbers are positive so they’re not published often… the machine would rather count everyone who walks through the door to a meeting, like we’re all professional miracle workers or something and can simply zap someone who has no desire to do what it takes to live a life free of addiction into instant peace and contentment with a few magic words.).
I don’t know what the percentages are for making a quarter of a million hours, but I’m past that and I dig it immensely. It isn’t an easy way of life, trying to choose a humble life in this “look at me” environment, but it’s simple and gratifying. When all the accounting is done, I truly love being me.
Having arrived at this point in life doesn’t mean I’ve crossed a finish line, I’ve always been partial to the idea that the finish line is a casket (or in my case, an urn for what’s left if anything is salvageable – I’m hoping for, “nope, all of that $#!+ is worn out”, but you never know).
Working on recovery leads, inexorably, to gratitude, peace and contentment. The big three, if we work for them, are like a tractor beam. It’s awesome and inescapable.
The catch is, it only works if you work it.
And so I go about my life, working toward being the best me I can simply because I want to see exactly how good this can get. Unlike the stockmarket, in this way of life, past performance is indicative of future results.
And so it was, I got home yesterday and my wife and I had a meeting with our financial advisor. It was cool out, lower 50s (call it 10 C, maybe) and cloudy with an occasional misting that wouldn’t quite turn to rain. I had every intention of skipping out but my wife had a board meeting to attend, so I thought why not give it a go. I could always turn around if I wasn’t feeling it. I texted Chuck and asked him to give me a few to get ready, then that I’d meet him on the road. I wheeled my Trek out just as he rode by the house. I clipped in, let him catch up after he turned around up the road and we rolled out.
The roads were slightly, meaning barely damp in a few splotchy places. No standing water, no spray, just the appearance of moisture. Sorry, dampness?
The first mile was a little on the chilly side but I warmed up under the gloomy sky – and I almost forgot, there was virtually no wind. The ride was more a two-wheeled stroll, really. We had some fast sections, but when we stumbled on a good topic, we’d slow it right down till we got through the discussion. It was exactly as a mid-autumn ride should be. The three Fs, if you will. Fun & Friendly with a little Fast. While we felt a little mist here or there, the roads ended up drying out completely and we never got enough to complain about.
As we were riding along, I was struck by how quiet and fantastic the Trek is behaving now that I got the right (rear) shifter tamed. I’ve never had it so good – and it’s been a great bike. “Buttery smooth” is a good way to put it.
We completed our loop and Chuck and I said our good-byes.
After a shower and a quick bite to eat, I headed out to a meeting where I talked an issue through with my sponsor, then related to it at the meeting because it fit an issue another guy was having with his family. Once the meeting was done, I stayed after for twenty minutes for the meeting after the meeting. Now, it’s a rare day I air dirty laundry at a meeting. Some people talk about every little issue they run into but I’m not that guy… I have a sponsor for that. In this rare instance, it fit. After the meeting I headed home, to find my daughter’s car in the driveway. Funny how things work out, is all I could think. My daughter and I had a conversation about that issue I’d spoken with my sponsor about and I made an apology that I needed to make and we laughed about how things had gone down. I’m being a little cryptic for space and time, and because the crux of the conversation is none of anyone else’s business… what is important is that I made my amends for a mistake I made, at the first opportunity I had because that’s how it works.
That’s how I got to, and beyond, 250,000 hours of continuous sobriety. One at a time. Then twenty-four at a time… then, out of the blue you look down at your Big Book app and see that you’ve passed a milestone without even realizing it. Because out of all those hours, the one I’m in right now is the most important. It’s the only one I can do anything with, really. And for that, I am grateful.
Recover hard, my friends. You’re worth it.
It was cold for the start of last evening’s Tuesday Night In Lennon. Notice I didn’t choose the word “cool”? Yerp, cold. Just 47 degrees (8 C) when we pulled into the parking lot. Folks, I’m just not ready for this. In all reality, the cold is still kinda fresh… it was 70 (21 C) just last week. That’s a pretty steep drop in a week.
We rolled out for a short warm-up just after 5, with not near enough time to do the full seven mile loop. We lollygagged for 2-1/2 miles, just long enough to get comfortable with knowing my three light layers were going to be enough. Also enough to know that my little sticky shifting issue was 100% fixed and the bike was shifting like butter. The Trek is dialed in.
We rolled out a few minutes past 5:30 and the sun was already a lot lower than I was comfortable with. All of the big hitters showed up on their gravel bikes, which was welcome news because the wind was out of the northwest which meant a lot of headwind and crosswind for the ride – there really wasn’t going to be much of a break. The point is, the pace wasn’t going to be as fast as it normally would be, but we weren’t going to watch the grass grow, either.
I picked the left lane of the double pace-line, which meant I was going to catch the bulk of the crossing headwind until we hit Shipman road. One issue I hadn’t taken into account was the diet I’ve been on. I’m not eating much of a lunch and that zapped my confidence as soon as we hit the headwind and guys started dropping to the back to suck wheel. I did my rotations but the rest periods were short. As we headed north, though, the pace picked up and I started struggling. It nagged on me that I was having a rough go when I knew I shouldn’t be. As we headed southwest, the sun was dropping to the horizon fast, and I decided to cut bait early. I had a little case of the “it’s late in the season and I don’t wanna”…
Winston was struggling a little, too, having just come back from being ill and was short on cycling fitness. We turned off together and beat a path for the City Limits sign… and the sun dropped like a rock. We talked while maintaining a 20 to 22-mph pace all the way back. How the others got back before light failed, I don’t know, but we made it.
We were packed up and down the road before any of the other riders made it back. So that’s basically it, folks. Put a fork in this year’s cycling season, it’s done.
Oh, but what a year it was!!!
There are three things that will cause a shifter to become hard to shift. This is a common occurrence and is not reason to panic. It’s also, normally, quite easy to fix. I fixed three in the last two days. One on my gravel bike (front derailleur), one on my wife’s gravel bike (front derailleur) – do you sense a theme? And one on my rain road bike (rear derailleur).
The three common causes are: dirty cable, dirty cable guides, dirty cable housing. A fourth, far less common cause for a sticky shifter is that the factory applied grease in the shifter itself has worn out. This is so rare, I’ve only had to have it fixed twice in ten years with seven bikes in common rotation (three for my wife, three for me, and one tandem – I maintain all of them). I feel it is important to mention, though. There are two ways to fix that and I’d recommend the GCN video on the topic – that’s how the shop fixed my two occasions. I didn’t know any better at the time, so I took the bikes to the shop.
Now, lets get to the common three, because we’re going to hit this with a shotgun approach and nail all three at the same time. You’ll need a damp towel (something that can get dirty and greasy), a pair of needle-nosed pliers (to remove and replace the cable end cap), and a 4 and/or 5 mm hex key/wrench, and a light lube (I prefer Finish Line Ceramic Lube – it’s super-slippery).
First, remove the cable end-cap of the offending shifter – let’s do rear in this example because there are more moving parts. For either derailleur, do not touch the set screws. If the bike shifted well before the shifter got sticky, it’ll shift fine after we clean it up. Next up, loosen the bolt that holds the cable to the rear derailleur, paying close attention to how the cable runs through the clamp. When we put this thing back together, you’ll have to replace the cable exactly as it was originally run through that clamp. If you go on the wrong side of the bolt, the bike won’t shift properly. Take a picture with your phone for reference if you must.
With the cable detached, if you’ve got internal shifting, take a long piece of cable liner and thread that over your cable until it comes out the guide at the bottom bracket (if you have a cable guide there, I do on my Venge), or the down tube of the frame. If you’ve got external routing (as I do on our gravel bikes and my rain bike), simply pull off the rear housing loop, thread the cable back through the cable guide and pull the housing and cable out of the cable stop on the down tube.
Now, roll back your shifter hood from the bottom to expose the hole through which your shifter cable is threaded (through the side on some shifters or the bottom for others). Don’t pull the cable all the way through unless you wish to install a new cable (sometimes this is necessary – if so, you may have to undo the top of your bar tape down to the hood to get access to the cable housing). Pull the cable until just an inch or two is showing at the down tube end cap. Get out your handy-dandy light lube and hit that part of the cable sticking out of the hood with a fair bit to make it slippy, the whole exposed cable, from the stop to the hood. Then pull it back through making certain the cable end seats properly all the way inside the shifter. You may have to help it, and if it won’t seat in the slot properly, you’ll have to pull the cable all the way through and shift all the way up for a rear derailleur (the smallest cog) or down for the front derailleur (the small ring) to get to the shifter pull in the proper location to accept the cable. This happened to me when I fixed my gravel bike the other day, so I just installed a new cable… if I’m going to the trouble of pulling the cable all the way out, I may as well insert a brand new cable.
Next, for an externally routed cable, unscrew the barrel adjuster at the down tube stop. Clean everything, including the stop, and lube the threads of the barrel adjuster being careful not to bounce the spring onto the floor and into some crevice in the floor, never to be seen again. Install the barrel adjuster and thread the cable through.
We turn our attention to the bottom bracket cable guide next. While we’ve got the cable on the floor, clean out the cable guide. If metal, add a dab of light lube before you thread the cable through. If plastic, clean any dirt out (I use a 1mm hex key), wipe it clean and slide the cable through. If you’re internally routed, you’re simply feeding the wire through the cable liner, the same way you took it apart, until you get it through the frame at the rear derailleur.
Before threading the cable through the barrel adjuster at the derailleur, unscrew and tighten down the adjuster. Any grit or dirt in the adjuster? Clean that up and lube the threads. Next, on the remaining exposed cable, add a fine coat of light lube and insert the end through the loop housing and thread the cable back through the derailleur making sure the cable housing is firmly seated in the frame and derailleur at the barrel adjuster.
Having threaded the cable back through the lock bolt on the derailleur exactly as it was when you unbolted it, pull the gable taught and tighten the bolt. Now, if I’m not working on a stand, I’ve got the bike upside down for this part because I need both hands to work this cheat… With the bike upside down or in a stand, operate the pedals forward and manually move the derailleur so the chain shifts down (up the cassette, down to easier gears) two cogs, then stop pedaling without releasing pressure on the derailleur so the chain stays on the bigger cog. This will leave some slack in the cable. Loosen the locking bolt on the derailleur and pull the slack out of the cable and tighten the bolt down again. Once that’s done, simply operate the pedals forward and the chain will shift down naturally to the smallest cog. Now adjust your derailleur so the shifting works up and down the cassette. If you did that last part right, you should be within one turn of perfection on the barrel adjuster (I’m usually within a half-turn).
Give your bike a few shifts up and down the cassette to make sure it’s right. You should be good to go.
If not, in the extremely rare occasion it’s still sticky, assuming your housings are all in good condition, it’s the shifter. At this point you might be cranky you did all of that work just to have to go back to clean out the shifter. Don’t be. You just cleaned out the entire system all the way from the hood to the derailleur. When you get that shifter cleaned up, everything will go back together in minutes and everything will be tip-top.
If you find me collapsed on the side of the road…
Do me a favor and make sure the auto-pause on my Garmin worked.
Well, the freezing fog was little early this year, and quite a shock, but with the proper cold weather clothing it’s not impossible to have a good time when it gets a little gnarly outside… and gnarly it was.
We decided on gravel and mountain bikes (gravel for us, and a mountain bike tandem) on dirt roads, rather than paved because of the visibility factor. We also had rain rolling in at some point in the afternoon, so waiting till the fog lifted was an option, but it could have gone either way. I readied the dirt bikes and layered up.
Now, getting the layers right has always been a difficult puzzle for me. Either I’m too warm and overheat as if I’m in a sauna, or I’m just a little light and I face a double-edged sword: I’ve gotta pedal harder to stay warm but, because I’m pedaling harder, I’m going faster which makes the ride colder with more wind. Well, yesterday I got it almost perfect… A warm-weather wicking jersey with arm warmers as a base, a long-sleeved jersey, and a thermal long-sleeved jersey/jacket up top and bib/leg warmers and tights for a second layer… wool socks, full foot covers and a hat that covered my ears. I thought that ought to do it.
My warm-up lap proved me a little wrong. I needed a neck gaiter to cover my neck and chin.
By the way, the neck gaiter is the best way I know to regulate temperature in cold weather. In this case, my jacket has a high collar so I thought I might be okay. The warm-up lap was to figure out if I needed the neck gaiter or not. If my neck and chin aren’t covered, I cool down (or stay cool). If they are covered, I’m much more comfortable. So, going by the old axiom, you can take it off, but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it with you, I start with losing the neck gaiter if I’m a little overdressed because the cold air on my neck and chin will cool me down immediately. Yesterday, I went into the house and put one on and was much happier.
We rolled out for the dirt at precisely 9am.
Visibility was about a quarter-mile but there was no traffic on the dirt. We all had our Garmin flashy radar taillights going and I was quite confident we were in good shape as far as being seen went. Now, unlike the gravel ride the day before, this one was slow… and with four times less elevation gain, it was just a super-easy, enjoyable morning on the bikes. While I love a little bit of work on a ride, every now and again those easy rides are just what I need to put a smile on my face.
We talked and laughed for much of the ride, until Jeff and Diane started getting rambunctious on the tandem. They’d drive the pace up to 21-mph and, though I had no problem holding their wheel, I knew my wife was a few bikes back cursing between gasps for air. They’d wind it up and I’d give them a bit to stretch their legs before asking them to dial it back. We rolled into Byron as I needed to stop to use the gas station’s facilities, and had a quick snack before heading out again to check out one of our favorite dirt roads. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and you’re almost guaranteed to see deer out foraging. We saw eleven in the space of a few miles. Seven in one group, four in another later on.
And it warmed up so riding was more on the enjoyable side.
We headed for home and pulled into the driveway with a cool 33 miles. Unfortunately, my wife’s bike needed some attention, though. Shifting from the little to big ring up front had become difficult. Typically, with a gravel bike, this only requires cleaning the points of entry for the cables into the housings and the cable guide under the bottom bracket, but after messing around with it, I figured why not just go all the way and install a new cable? In addition to the new cable, I also took the barrel adjuster off of the frame and clean, lubed and replaced it. Once everything was back together, it shifted like new again and I took to cleaning my bike of the morning’s dirt.
I think we were passed by three cars in that 33 miles. I’d never forsake the speed (and cleanliness) of riding on paved roads for dirt, but it sure is nice to not have to worry about traffic.
I turned on a football game after eating some lunch and dozed off. It was a spectacular nap.
You know those days where most sane people wake up ready to ride, only to look outside and find rain blew in from out of nowhere to confound the plans and say, “Self, it’s a day off, then. Let’s fire up the NetFlix.”
The first half was me. I was not sane. Nor was Chuck, Winston or Mike K. After all, it was the annual apple cider (and cinnamon sugar donut) ride. I’d rather wax my own @$$ than miss that ride! It was only lightly raining, anyway, and it was due to stop just as the ride was scheduled to start, anyway.
My wife was sane. So was my riding buddy, Mike A. And a bunch of other people who’d planned on showing up.
Ah, the lure of a donut or two during a diet… the only way I can justify that is to ride to get them…
I only knew Chuck and I were showing up. We’d texted back and forth and I forwarded those texts to the group without response, then packed the car and headed to our meet-up spot, about a 16 minute drive from the house. It rained the whole way. As I approached the city parking lot, though, just as the future radar had shown, the rain lightened to a drizzle and stopped. We started getting ready. Ten minutes later, on damp roads, we rolled out.
The dirt was damp, even a little wet at times, but not horrible. We decided to ride it out, knowing the farther south we got, the more conditions would improve. Sadly, something like four miles in, we turned north and it started spitting on us, then picked up just enough for me to check my computer to see how far it was to get back… I remember thinking, at 8 miles, “Oh, crap, we’ve got more than four times this [mileage] left!” Then we headed south, about ten miles in… the rain stopped and things cleared up considerably. Eventually, the dirt dried and the sun even tried to break through the cloud cover. Unfortunately, the temperature was the one thing that didn’t improve. It was cold. I regretted not having shoe covers and a second layer on the bottom half. Thankfully, I was a little over-dressed up top, having opted for a light long-sleeve jersey under my heavy long-sleeve and vest. If not for being a bit overdressed at my core the ride would have sucked bad.
And Chuck had managed to find every big hill there was out there. We climbed the dirt version of “The Wall” (it’s actually called The Wall in Strava – PRed it), Maybley Hill (PRed it), Ratalee Hill (PRed it)… look, I could go on for a minute. When it was all done, hit eight PRs and four second fastest times yesterday. There was only one segment the whole ride that I didn’t best a previous time on. It didn’t show it on the average speed on my Garmin, but we were flying compared to previous rides (and thankfully, I didn’t ever feel like I was working that hard – I was out of breath a lot, but I recovered quickly).
23-miles in and we were as far south as we were going to get. Conditions had improved massively and I knew we were getting close to donuts. My mood improved immensely. Two miles later we were pulling up to the orchard… and our sweet reward for having braved some pretty crappy conditions.
We went through the indoor maze to get to the donut line (or where the donut line normally is), to find a sign that directed us outdoors for our mid-ride snack. We made a bee-line. The line was mercifully short and after about a minute’s wait, I was ordering my two donuts and hot apple cider. As we walked over to the outdoor picnic tables, the line quintupled in length. We’d gotten there exactly at the right time.
We sat and talked and laughed… and ate and drank our spoils.
Our break wasn’t too short but was long enough and we headed to our bikes to roll out. I hadn’t noticed it while we were eating but the clouds had broken and I was squinting against the sun… and it was awesome. We donned our helmets and gloves and rolled out. We only had a little less than twelve miles left and the dirt had dried up nicely. The pace really picked up in quite a few places and just about the time my tongue was going to get rubbed raw from dangling down on my tire, Chuck sat up and said, “That’s enough of this.” I can’t put into words my gratitude.
The remaining five or six miles was controlled but fast in places and definitely fun… though I noticed going from the little to big ring up front was a lot more work than it should have been. That was going to need some attention later on.
We rolled into the parking lot with smiles on faces and the sun shining down on us – a much better situation than what we’d rolled out in. I looked at my bike and knew I was in for a long cleanup on aisle five. The bike was covered in mud. Still, I couldn’t help but feel grateful on the way home. I’d had a great time with a few friends for the better part of three hours, and without them, I’d have sat it out on the couch.
It was worth all the work I’d put into the Diverge later on – new shifter cable, new (matching) bottle cages… finally… and about an hour’s worth of cleaning and drivetrain maintenance. She runs like new, now.
We’re off on the dirt for our annual cider ride this morning which means fresh, warm cinnamon sugar donuts and hot apple cider. There’s only one issue this year; I’m on a diet.
That’s right, friends. A real, legit diet. Oh, sure, some of my weight is extra muscle, as the donut shop lie goes but there’s more BBQ and roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy than muscle and it doesn’t take a degree in medicine to see it in the mirror. I’ve forsaken my normal lunches for a salad for the last week… with some kind of meat for protein, of course. Let’s not be silly, here. The best part is I’ve found something I like, so next week I’m making my own. This will mean even fewer calories and slightly better portion sizes than the Wendy’s versions I’ve been buying – there’s no arguing grilled chicken is vastly superior to fried (though fried is… well, fried). I’ve got about the weight of my 5200 to lose before spring (and thankfully, no winter or spring vacations to derail me this year!).
Thursday and yesterday were days off… rain and my daughter’s swim meet Thursday and bowling last night (203, 176, 201 – my normal strike ball was hooking up too much from the middle of the second to the first two frames in the third… switched to my 16lb ball and hammered them). An interesting development with bowling this year is that my plant leg is reacting considerably more than it has in the past to the extra load. Normally, I simply transition from cycling to bowling in the fall without so much as a hiccup. I can really feel it this year. I’m assuming this has to do with taking last year off.
Anyway, I just saw I may have to alter my plans for the day. I just checked the forecast and somehow they’re going to try sneaking in some rain in the next few minutes. All week long the weekend looked fantastic – right up through yesterday afternoon. Now we’re looking at rain till 10-ish this morning. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the UK sent us some of their weather.
People not in the know tend to paint we recovering types with a broad brush. They often claim we “talk weird, like [we’re] in a cult or something”. They often, incorrectly claim we are too “religious”, there’s too much talk of God and Jesus.
Like many stigma-related stereotypes, those two are based on a sliver of truth, wildly exaggerated. I can’t say they’re untrue, but they’re not true, at the same time.
We do speak… um, with an authentic eccentricity that some can find odd. Some of us are very religious, not unlike normal society. We have our atheists and agnostics as well. Unlike many parts of society, we don’t discriminate. We take everyone who wants to live a life free of the bondage of alcoholism, addiction and abuse.
I happen to be a little more pragmatic about God. I capitalize the G (if you’re writing about Bob, do you write bob? No you don’t). On the other hand, I believe in attraction, not promotion. I’d rather show you God’s grace by being an example of it than trying to convince you of it.
I’d rather a person come up to me and ask me how I could possibly be so content (or happy, as the case usually is), to ask what my trick is, than to try to convince everyone that God is the answer by shouting it from the rooftops.
A cat on the fence howling at the moon tends to get a shoe thrown at it. Know what I’m saying?
That out of the way, let’s get down to what’s real (and what really puts people off about “program people”). Those in recovery, meaning those who actually practice the principles of recovery, not everyone who show’s up to get a paper signed for the judge so they can get out of trouble, have a cheat. We literally cheat our way out of a sad, unhappy, discontented life. Well, that depends, I suppose, on how you want to define “cheat”:
We are taught the true nature of happiness as an inside job from the day we walk in the door and sit down at a table. We learn how to be happy and peaceful in our own goodness and to reject resentment because resentment, even against those who have wronged us, is the root of our later stages of addiction. We put the focus solely on ourselves. In fact, if done correctly, we learn how to look at our own part in someone else’s mistreatment of us. We learn the only thing we can “fix” in the world is in the gray matter betwixt our ears. Period, end of story.
Once we learn how to be good and to be okay with that goodness, we cease looking outside ourselves for “things” that artificially make us feel happy. Happiness becomes an inside job.
Once this is mastered, we learn to protect our happiness from outside influences that typically despise easy-going happiness.
After that, we learn how to take those influences and show them grace, peace and forgiveness. (This is where I normally reside, so I don’t know what’s next – but this is pretty freaking good! I like it a lot).
This isn’t to say this choice of lifestyle is perfect. I run into challenges that take a run at my peace and happiness on a regular basis. Sometimes I fail for a while. Sometimes I can’t see my part in things. Sometimes I just want to be pissed off for a minute… but in the end, I always fall back to the tried and true cheat of looking at myself when I’m tired of being miserable. It’s the only thing that really works. Every time. Without fail.
Recover hard, my friends. The alternative sucks.
We rode in shorts and short-sleeves last night, likely the last evening of the year that’ll be comfortable. I wore my DALMAC 50-year jersey, which has quickly become my favorite in my drawer full of jerseys.
I got a couple of extra miles in, early on the way to pick Chuck up. Unfortunately, I went the back way to get to his house and he left a little early the front way, so we ended up missing each other. He called while I was standing in his driveway to ask where I was… we both laughed and I took off to catch him.
Last evening was glorious. Lower 70s and falling, so it was never too warm and never too cold. I paid a lot more attention than I normally would to our surroundings. It’s going to get cold here, today. The leaves are going to “blaze of glory” it and fall off the trees soon… and did I mention the cold?
The season is almost over. We’re in the last few weeks before it gets too cold and gnarly to enjoy riding outdoors… and dark. Daylight Saving Time is about to end and we’re going to be plunged into the night at just past 6:00. Trainer time will start up soon and the gravel bike will become the primary go-to.
Yesterday’s ride was awesome, but bittersweet. It’s raining today, thunderstorms and heavy downpours… and the temperature will fall off a shelf this afternoon. And so will my mileage, as fall and winter set in.
I’ve begun my yearly diet. Started it Monday. As one would expect, I’m hungry pretty much all of the time but I’ll get used to that in a week or two. I hate to do it, but I’d like to lose at least one bike before the spring hits. Let the long slog to spring begin.
After last night’s Tuesday Night In Lennon, I was struck by the same thought I’ve been hit with after most Tuesday night club rides – and I just figured out how to organize the emotions so I could put the whole box of rocks into words… simply.
I’m going to deviate from the norm in which I burn up too many words on the first half so I can save all the goods for the fastest part of the ride. This should keep the post from growing into a two-cup minimum monster of a post.
Imagine, if you will, the start of any Tuesday night this year with a wind out of the west. It’s headwind for the first half of the ride and the second half is fast and loose. We had wind last night, but it wasn’t terrible, just barely into the double digits and we fought through it really well – and it was just cut up enough between the crosswind (north) and the headwind (west) that we had a 23.5-mph average at Shipman Road. Unfortunately, Shipman sucks worst with a west wind. It’s a cross-headwind that just smashes us into an echelon that’s always too big for our lane. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line, fighting crosswind for the first six miles, so I’d be on the protected side on Shipman, and it paid dividends. As they say, you can pay me now, or pay me later, but you’ll pay. With some help from a couple of the Elite Group, we kept the whole pace-line together through the hills till we split off into two groups. Nobody was dropped in the hills so we managed a rolling regroup. That’s where the fun starts.
With the headwind behind us and the group split in two, we chose to single it up so we could get longer breaks before taking a turn at the front. We’ve got a fairly long, not too steep hill to climb after we drop into a valley that, if we’re not careful, can hammer the tandems into the ground, so Chuck usually calls for calm till we crest the hill – and that’s exactly how it went last night, and it worked perfectly. We climbed the hill at around 21-mph – and before you ask, I know, that’s fast for going up. I can’t explain it, the hill is an easy climb. Over the crest, it was all hands in the drops, maximum warp over the half-mile descent. The tandems were up front for most of the mile to the City Limits sign. Through town was a little quicker than normal but we were stopped at a busy intersection, waiting for traffic to clear. Once through the intersection, I was expecting the pace to ease as we worked our way up a couple of shallow hills, but it was intense. We were running out of daylight and we were driving the pace to get home before dark.
Two miles later, we were at the homestretch: full tailwind, only three molehills to crest, and a lot of downhill to the finish. Coming around the righthand corner at full speed, we took the pace up to the mid-20s (mph – or 40 km/h) over the course of a mile and kept it pegged, except at those molehills. Down a quick descent to a busy intersection and we had to time a car going by but for the most part, blew right through the intersection. Mike took the lead up the hill and kept pace “reasonable” to “perfect” for the tandems to make it without too much trouble. Over the crest, it’s basically a 0.5 to 1% descent all the way to the finish and it’s always hot for those last two miles.
The tandems had worked their way to the front and were sitting one, two with a half-mile left and they took it to “11”. It’s funny, how at 23-25-mph, the pack can get a little squirrely, but when the pace goes to, say, 30-mph (48-kmh), everyone straightens out in a hurry. That was the case last night. The first tandem pulled off to the back and the second took over. Chucker was behind them and I was behind Chucker. Mike was behind me. And it was on.
I’m pretty sure I was in the drops, but can’t be sure. Chucker rides in the drops at all times, and Mike was behind me. The tandem pulled off just as we got to the sprint point and Chuck dropped the hammer, adding at least another 2-mph to the 30.5, catching me by surprise. I couldn’t quite answer his surge and Mike didn’t have it to come around me. I started to close the gap on Chucker, but he gained too much gap on his jump. We shot across the line at 55 feet per second, 31.5-mph, or 51-km/h… And just like that, we sat up, shifted to easier gearing and reset the computers for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. We patted each other on the back and had a few laughs on the way back. We’d crossed the City Limits finish line at 22.9-mph for our average. Fantastic for October. The mood was effusive – “You’re riding great, man”… “No, you’re the one putting out massive wattage, you’re riding mid-season form!”, etc., etc. I love being a part of that, after we’ve laid it all out.
It was hotdogs and tailwind, baby.
The mosquitos were horrible when we got back, so we packed up quick and headed for home. Once I caught my breath, about a mile up the road, my thoughts settled and I tried to pay attention…
My thoughts were all centered on gratitude.
It occurred to me the refrain is almost always the same. When the bike is packed in the car and I’m heading home after a Tuesday night, all I can think is, “How did I get so lucky to be able to be a part of such a great group?”
Once the bike is put in its prominent resting place in the living room and I’m showered and not stinky anymore, after I’ve eaten and I’m sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’m simply grateful to be a part of that wonderful group.
I also realized last night, it’s not so important the why, as much as it is just enjoying this gift as it is.
And so I shall.