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Best 30th Recovery Anniversary Day EVAH! Working “The Program” Better.

After tending to some work in the wee hours of the morning, my wife and I took some time to ride on the trainers. It’s way too cold out for enjoyable riding and a decent couple inches of snow iced up the roads the night before. A shower and a little more work and we headed out for lunch at Qdoba, our favorite Friday lunchtime spot. After Qdoba, we went to a noontime meeting where my wife gave me my coin and I recounted how I’d made it another year… let’s just leave it at this; my wife’s presentation damn-near had me in tears. It used to be quite rare (but becoming vastly more commonplace) she felt safe enough to share her emotions unchecked, but she did yesterday. After, I had quite a bit more to talk about that I normally would having realized a new way to work “the program” over the last year.

I passed my coin around the packed room so everyone could rub some good mojo onto it.

After the meeting, my wife and I headed over to the local bike shop to say hi. We looked around a little bit and there are signs of things turning around a little bit with not one, but two drop bar gravel bikes on display. Super cool Treks, one aluminum and one gorgeous carbon fiber rig that I had to quickly walk away from lest I start drooling.

After the bike shop, Jess and I spent the rest of the afternoon together with a little work interspersed. I packed up my bowling bag and headed out for a two-game warmup before league play. I threw a 201 & a 188 – decent enough, but I struggled dialing it in a little bit. Midway into our first game, my wife and daughter showed up to surprise me. Play misty for me again. I took my daughter over to meet one of my better friends on Friday night, Keno Connors. He’s one of the most jovial, decent people I’ve ever met. We talk often about how things are going in our lives and he always asks how my star swimmer is doing, so I finally had the chance to introduce them.

After bowling, I arrived home to my daughter standing at the front door with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. I had a card each from my wife and daughter sitting at my place at the dinner table when I sat down.

And play misty for me one more time.

Over the course of the last nine months I haven’t relearned how to work the program. I didn’t find out that I’d done a substandard job all these years. I did find out there was a deeper, more meaningful way I could work the steps that would add a shocking amount of depth, love, peace and contentment to my marriage and all of the relationships I have with friends, family and guys I work with in AA. My sponsor, Pete likes to say we’re growing another step closer to the light.

I feel like I need sunglasses, and it is good. Thanks God.

30 Years Clean and Sober: A New and Fantastic Path Appears… for the Love of My Wife.

Most of my first 29 years, when I got my coin, I’d spout a few clichés in a meeting after my wife said a few heartfelt and meaningful words about how far we’d come in our marriage and recovery. Every now and again, I’d have something important to say, but I’d normally keep it fairly short and simple. Something about trusting God and helping others, I’d hug my wife and accept my coin.

Not this year. This year, my whole recovery was turned on its head when I asked God, “How deep does this rabbit hole go”? He proceeded to show me.

From November 19th, 2021 until late February, my story was the first paragraph. Rinse and repeat. I’d had one of the best sponsors AA had to offer about ten years earlier, who passed from lung cancer, who would light up a room when he walked in. He had a gift for making everyone in that room feel better about being who they were because he simply loved everyone. It was amazing to watch the dynamic of a room change when he walked in the door. He gave me some of the best marriage advice I’d ever received and I still use it today. Sadly, I had no clue how I’d get from where I was to where he was on the path I was on when he died. And I was no closer in late February until I had a conversation with my daughters. They were worried about Jess and I and how we would do after Josie left for college (she’s in her junior year), without the distraction of having kids around. They brought up an interesting point.

And gave me a new goal.

A short while later, driving to work listening to the local news show on the radio (npr or talk radio, take your pick, doesn’t matter – most left or right extremists want to know whether it was a lefty or righty station so they can form a summary judgment of who I am based on politics… those freaking people are sick). Anyway, it occurred to me I was listening to the same damned news story for the last 25 freaking years. There had to be something better I could do with my time! Something that would help improve my life. But what?

I asked God for some inspiration. Twenty minutes later I was listening to a psychology professor’s lecture on YouTube. He was talking about arguing with people. I thought this will be great! I can learn how to argue with my wife and maybe win once in a while! He spoke about doing the least amount of damage possible in order to get your point across, and let the other person show who they are and let them expose their agenda which should be easy enough to dispense with. I loved that concept! A couple of days later, a video on implementing that in a relationship, only in this case we don’t try to win. We do the least amount of damage possible and negotiate for peace. My mind was completely blown. The idea was to not fight. I tried it on my wife. We started out arguing on the way to a concert and by the time we got to the venue we were having the best time we’d had together in YEARS. It was magical.

Another video about narcissism a few days later. I was sure I was going to learn a lot about my wife from this one. The first three things were absolutely my wife. The next three, were me. What an eye-opener! I immediately asked God to show me everything. The emotional barriers and walls I’d built over the years crumbled and I was laid bare. I called her in tears and apologized for who I’d been and let her know things would get much better. I explained in detail what I’d learned.

I started working with a new sponsor shortly thereafter and he helped me navigate some of the tougher waters, including a massive bout with possessiveness that struck me to my core. He helped me to pray and meditate, and listen to what was going on inside me so I could ask God for direct help where I needed it. When I found I’d wronged my wife throughout this time, I immediately went to her and took ownership of where I was wrong and pledged to mindfully do better. Then I did better. In the meantime, she began her own changes, once she saw that what I was going through was real and safe.

We had some intense negotiations over the next several months but we didn’t fight much. On the rare occasion a fight was necessary, we always remembered to come back to doing the least amount of damage possible and negotiate for peace. We grew closer than we’d ever been. She was amazing and challenging at the same time.

I started talking about the changes at meetings, because they were all centered around the tenth and eleventh steps. Bringing it up at meetings was part of twelve.

All of a sudden people started asking me to sponsor them. I’ve worked with more men in the last six months than I ever had in the past. My wife and I have reconciled to a point our marriage isn’t even recognizable in its current form from what we had last year. There is peace, happiness and contentment… and joy.

And at the heart of it all is our Higher Power and steps ten, eleven and twelve. It was just a couple of months ago, now, that I sat down with my wife and talked to her about something that had changed in me. I told her I’d just realized that earlier in the year I had no idea how I would get from where I was to where my old sponsor was. All of a sudden, after everything had changed, I knew there was a lot of work to be done, but I could at least see the path. All I had to do was walk it.

And so I have, and so I will.

Thanks God. Thanks, Sunshine. Anything is possible in recovery. Anything. As long as I keep coming back and work the steps.

Sobriety Anniversaries: A Day and a Wakeup to Thirty Years. Why Anniversaries Still Matter to Me

I mentioned at my homegroup meeting that I’d hit 30 years on Friday. I’m quite young for hitting that mark at 52 and we’ve got three new guys who just started showing up last week. One has three months, the others a couple of weeks, now. I mentioned my coming anniversary (as did my wife) as a way of letting those guys know that, if you stick around long enough and don’t die, becoming an old-timer is possible.

Everyone in the meeting, except one guy (and you know this type) got it. He, on the other hand, had to point out that I indeed hadn’t made it yet (as if I was tragically lost on this fact) and I was really only one day closer to a drink, anyway.

I pushed back hard on the sophomoric and petulant “you’re really only one day closer to a drink” bit. The notion is just plain stupid.

The idea, while sound in a cynical way, was simply tossed out there because if he gets a decently angry reaction out of me (which he failed to elicit), my reaction would justify his cynical views. Rather, I simply said in a very calm, cool voice, that’s not true at all. I’m one day closer to thirty years and that’s good enough for me. When I didn’t know any better, I would give him the angry response he wanted (and, oddly enough, he’s been a friend for more than 20 years) and I’m sure he’d feel just a little bit better about being so miserable. Today, it’s enough to exercise restraint and be kind without accepting the premise of a silly point made to bring about a strongly worded negative response – this fella’s had a rough life.

As I’ve said in the past, I celebrate the full month of my anniversary. I used to look for reasons to celebrate something so I could get good and drunk; now I celebrate my freedom from that.

I’ve got a day and a wakeup to 30 years – 20 of which is time I’d have spent in a casket if I’d kept using. That seems reason enough for a celebration to me. At least for today.

Prepare For Pain! They Ask How Long Can You Hold the Wheel of a 17-Year-Old Pro Lead Out… Erm… Kid? The Short Answer!

So, I’m perusing my YouTube feed this morning and up pops the question, “How long can you hold the wheel of a 17-year-old pro lead out man?” with the screen grab, “Prepare for pain!

Well, I’ll tell you the short answer; roughly till he drops me.

The real answer is, I’m 52-freaking-years-old! Who gives a $#!+ how long I can hold the wheel of a pro. Let’s put that kid in my life and see how long he could hold it together without pissing his pants and whining about safe spaces! Heh, roughly about the same relative duration I could hold his wheel on a bicycle.

Look, that stuff is awesome click bait and I’d bet my lunch the post will generate more hits than this post, but let’s be real, folks. A pro cyclist is really good at riding bikes. I’m a pro husband, dad, recovering old-timer, Sr. Project Manager, Sr. Estimator with a life so fantastic and full, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s all real. I simply happen to ride a bike for fun and exercise – and I happen to be a little bit fast at it.

Fairly argued, “recovering old-timer” goes first. Without that, I’m nothing. But that just didn’t fit well next to the word “pro” so I put it after my wife and kids. Without recovery, my wife was never interested in me and my kids are wishes upon a star. Going even further, truthfully, without recovery I was worm food twenty years ago.

Oh, it’d be fun to find out just how long I could hold a pro’s wheel for a lead out but I don’t think I’d even get up to his full speed… especially considering he’d be spaghetti and I’d be somewhere along the lines of a mostaccioli trying to draft him. If you’ve ever been beyond 35-mph on a road bike in a pace-line on flat roads, even drafting behind a big fella is tough.

Anyway, it’s food for fun conversation. Ride hard! Or don’t. Just ride.

Why I Ride a Bicycle Part 2,279: A Hundred Great Memories from 2022

If you follow me on Strava, you’ll know that I’ve posted a veritable ton of photos on our rides this year. I’ve taken some, my wife has taken most from the Rear Admiral’s saddle of our tandem. It’s been the happiest year we’ve spent on two wheels – I’d defend saying it was my happiest year ever.

I think back on some of those moments that we shared together, growing from a lackluster union to one of peace, happiness and gratitude and, hindsight being what it is, am utterly flabbergasted at how things came to be. All I can say is, if I give my Higher Power just a little room to wiggle in, as my own willingness goes, it’s astonishing how much was accomplished in such a short time.

I haven’t cracked 5,000 miles for the year yet, though I’m close. I have zero regerts (misspelled on purpose, Todd). On the contrary, I happily traded in those extra miles needed to get me to my normal average for a marriage I am excited to have and be a part of. It is a worthy tradeoff I’d make over and over again.

As we approach my 30th anniversary in recovery and aptly, Thanksgiving, I thank God several times a day that I’m on the right side of the grass, pumping air. I am thankful for so much, not least of all, that I have something worthwhile to pass along to those new to recovery. Our recovery and marriage is an average story of pure awesome.

Thanks God.

Jim

How To Ride a Bicycle with Your Wife (Without Blowing Up Because She’s Too Slow [Or Vice-Versa]). Five Fantastic Tips That Will Having the Two Of You Riding Off Into the Sunset Together

The title says wife, but I’ve heard a few stories where the wife is the stronger cyclist, so this post can cut both ways. I’ll simply say I know a bunch of guys who wish they could ride with their spouse but can’t get over the slow ride. Take it easy, Foghat. I have help to offer.

There are at least five great tips I can give that helped get my wife motivated and riding to a point we were planning next season’s tandem trips before the first snowflake ever hit the ground on this season (hint: it looks like the new tandem is going to Kentucky next year).

The first great tip I can give is, if you want your wife to ride with you, go out on a ride first to wear yourself out, then ride with her after. She’ll appreciate being able to go her own pace, knowing you’ve already gotten your workout in. And you’ll be tired enough to freaking relax a little bit, there killa. My wife and I had some pretty fantastic rides together after I was already beat up.

The second great tip I can offer is this; buy her a nice bike. It doesn’t have to be better than your race bike, just nice enough that she knows you value riding with your spouse regularly. Bonus tip for the husband buying for his wife; don’t go too nice. She doesn’t work like you. She’ll probably feel too much pressure to perform with too nice a bike. I was able to carefully ride this ledge on the side of a cliff. It’s delicate. I also bought her a triathlon-specific road bike which showed I was paying attention to what she wanted out of cycling.

Third, you can ditch the aggressive, fast, have to use every minute on the bike to get faster bit when riding with your wife. She doesn’t care and a slow ride every now and again is freaking fun and amazing. Especially if you get into riding dirt roads. I can already hear you, though. “But my wife likes to test my patience by seeing just how slow she has to go before I’ll blow up… if I try to match her 14-mph, she’ll just drop to 13. If I drop to 13, she drops to 12! Why?” Ah, the speed test. This is a tricky one. And the fourth tip will solve this problem in its entirety.

Tip number four, the magic, loving push. If your spouse begins to tire out, rather than get into the aforementioned power struggle, try riding up along side and place your hand on the small of their back with a little bend in your elbow. Ride like that for a minute or two, then gently start increasing your wattage. You act like your spouse’s very own eBike. The help should be greatly appreciated if done in a genuinely loving way. Personally, I love the connection so I’ll simply ride with my hand on my wife’s back just to let her know I’ve got her back if needed and I’m happy to be there with her. We’re both happier for it. Then, if I see her struggling on hills later in the ride, I’ll give her an extra 30 or 40 watts.

Tip number five: Buy a tandem. Now, this tip comes with a massive caveat, thus why it’s last. A friend of mine often says of tandems, “they’re marriage makers, or marriage breakers“. As a couple, especially as the stronger cyclist in that couple, you’ve got to be willing to work together to a level you probably haven’t attained before to successfully ride a tandem. They’re hard… but rewarding, if you put in the work. From my perspective, it’s meant giving up who I was on a single bike (and I did it gladly, and would do it again). The truth is, I’d rather ride tandem with my wife, whatever the pace, than ride solo. Cycling is vastly more enjoyable on the tandem, but it took a ton of work to get there. The big down side is, tandems aren’t cheap. You’re looking at $3,000 for a low-end tandem with the better brands and lines topping $14,000 for a complete bike. It’s an investment that should only be entered into with a full commitment. If you need to test it, try a used tandem first, before you buy the space-grade aluminum frame with a Shimano Di2 drivetrain and custom carbon race wheels.

The main point to remember is to be patient so that riding together can be enjoyable. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.

Maintaining A Shimano 10-Speed Groupset on a Road Bike So It Always Shifts Perfectly; There Are A Lot Of Little Things That Add Up to Perfect.

The first tip for maintaining a mechanical groupset on a road bike so it always shifts perfectly is, don’t use Shimano’s 10-speed groupset as your example of perfect.

Campagnolo? Awesome. SRAM 10-speed? Fine and dandy. Shimano? Well…

I should know. My wife and I have four bikes in our stable with differing lines of Shimano 10-speed drivetrains. We’re in the process of acquiring a Campagnolo Record equipped 10-speed bike and have an 11-speed Shimano and 9-speed Shimano gravel bikes (one of which was upgraded from Shimano Claris 8-speed which was absolute garbage). In the 10-speed camp, at the top of the range, we have my Ultegra-equipped Specialized Venge, then my 105-equipped Trek 5200, my wife’s Specialized Secteur, and our Co-Motion tandem. My wife’s Specialized Alias has Shimano’s 105 line in 11-speed.

The key here is knowing the one problem with Shimano’s 10-speed line; if you know this problem, you can fix that when it rears its ugly head. Worry about the other minor problems as they arise. The main problem resides in a weak spring in the rear derailleur. This causes the derailleur’s performance to degrade long before its useful life should be over.

I chose the words in that last sentence very carefully, because they’re exceedingly important to how the drivetrain performs when that spring goes bad. It’ll operate like the shifting cable has drag in it, leading you on a wild goose chase for a phantom problem you’ll never be able to find. Oh, there will be signs that you’ve finally found the problem but your shifting will soon be pooched yet again… because you really just need a new rear derailleur.

Basically, you won’t be able to dial the rear derailleur in. It’ll shift well going up the cassette or it’ll shift well going down, never both as it should.

Unfortunately, that’s also a major clue for having drag in the shifting cable that’s preventing the derailleur from properly indexing. A little dirt or grime, some rust on the cable, grime in the connecting bits (ferrules and grommets and such), as well as grime in the cable guide under the bottom bracket… even grime in the shifters themselves – any of those issues will make your bike’s shifting go bad.

The simplest way to fix the rest is to pick up and install a shifting cable set from the manufacturer of your drivetrain. Even though you can technically use SRAM and Shimano interchangeably, I’ve taken to using only products that complete a line, with the exception of chains and cassettes. I use Ultegra chains and cassettes on all of the 105 bikes. They cost a little more, but the weight savings is worth it to me. New cables, housings and end caps (also referred to as ferrules) from the shifters to the rear derailleur, along with a shifter/hood cleaning will cure all ills if the derailleurs are in good working order.

Last Tandem In Paris (Michigan)… Well, Technically, Byron, But Who’s Counting?

We rolled the tandem out to a fabulous fall morning… just a day before winter makes its early entrance to daily life. In a word, to be dressed in just a light base layer, long sleeve thermal jersey and leg warmers this late into November is simply glorious. The tandem, with a few mechanical adjustments over the season is impossibly quiet. I think, if we really tried, we could hear the frogs fart in the ditch on the side of the road.

Mike and Joe met us at the end of our driveway and we rolled for the Deer Loop. Jess and I were both dressed perfectly and we were facing all of the headwind on the first half of the ride. Well, if you could call it “wind”. It was more of a breeze.

Oh, there was talk and laughter, and a few friends just passing the morning on bikes. For Jess and I, it was our last “date” on the tandem for the season. Yesterday’s 55 degree (13 C) start temp won’t be seen again, even as a high temp for the day, till March.

Well, to be fair, we might sneak one or two nice days in there, but it’s increasingly unlikely. We’re deep into trainer and gravel season, now. At least till the snow comes in December (or later this month), that’s simply trainer season till my wife and I get fat bikes in the distant future (hat tip to you, Brent).

Jess and I ended up having a wee bit of an intense discussion after the ride about power to the pedals and the fact that we were imbalanced through much of the ride (she felt like we were spinning much of the ride – I was definitely never “spinning”), but other than that, it was a peach of a ride. We settled on that this will be something to work on next year… on our glorious, uber-light, top-end Co-Motion Kalapuya with it’s Rolf racing wheels and the whole nine.

This morning, it’s windy and just a few degrees above freezing. I set the tandem on the stand yesterday afternoon and cleaned the drivetrain. I took all of the computers and lights off, and cleaned and lubed the chain and steel bits to keep them from rusting before locking it away for the winter.

I love that bike… and the dates my wife and I have had on it this year.

It’s all over but the shouting…

Well, we’ve got one more road bike ride in us. We’re taking the tandem out this morning before I winterize it. It’s currently 55 degrees (12.75 C) and the temp is going to plummet over the course of the day. Tomorrow’s high is barely above freezing with lows well below freezing… and it just gets worse from there.

2022 is all but done for cycling… and what a year it’s been. Trying to pick one photo that encapsulates the season isn’t easy… there are quite a few awesome choices. I think, after it’s all done, Jess and I on the tandem is the best. What a year!

Good times and noodle salad.

Are You Looking For The Perfect Entry-Level Multi-Day Tour Or An AWESOME Tandem Tour? I Just Joined The Committee For Sunrise Adventure – the Best On Michigan’s Ride Calendar (IMHO).

Folks, the Sunrise Adventure (possibly changing names to Shoreline East) put on by the League of Michigan Bicyclists is the one of the best pure tandem tours I’ve ever ridden. The hills are there, but not so difficult you’re even close to wondering if your granny gear will be enough (we ride a 52/42/30 crankset with an 11-28 cassette on a 42 pound steel Co-Motion tandem and had more than enough). In fact, it’s also a phenomenal entry-level door opener to multi-day tours for those who think they would love to do a multiple-day tour but who don’t know what to expect and would like to break the ice.

First, the tour is only three days so it’s easy enough to take a day or two off to extend the weekend. Second, it’s hotel-based (the cost of your room is not included in the price of registration) so you won’t have to worry about tents and camping. Third, it’s based in downtown Alpena, Michigan, a couple hundred miles from the business center in Detroit. Other than their industrial sites, nothing fouls the air, and it’s noticeably fresh riding around the local roads. Fourth, all three routes are visually stunning with the best being day two, the journey to Presque Isle (Pronounced “Presk Eel”). Part of the destination for the second day is an old 130′ lighthouse you can pay an extra five bucks to climb. The stunning, secluded walk to the rocky beach shouldn’t be missed.

Now, I’ve just scratched the surface on this fantastic tour. The start and finish locations center around National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of Thunder Bay, a fantastic building right on an inlet to the beautiful Lake Huron. The downtown life in Alpena is vibrant with excellent choices for meals, shopping and entertainment but with a “land that time forgot” vibe. So, if your spouse is interested in joining you, but doesn’t ride, this is a perfect tour in that there’s plenty for a non-riding spouse to do while you’re on the road. Sign up for the glass-bottom boat shipwreck tour that leaves from NOAA Thunder Bay, as well (an after-ride event)

Friends, that I can see, there’s no down-side to this tour, and I’ve ridden a bunch. It quickly rose in the ranks to my favorite tour, especially after day two.

We’ll hope to see you on the road next year. Jess and I will be there again. In fact, we’ll meet you at the registration table.