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A Saturday Duathlon: Cycling and Golf

Jess and I hammered out 47-miles on the tandem yesterday morning with a few friends. It was a great ride. Fantastic. We’re riding like we’re a finely tuned machine and the new tandem feels like we’re cheating compared to the old Periscope. We were all set for a 40-miler when my wife asked, per Chuck’s request the day before, if we should keep heading north to the next paved road. It added another eight miles overall. The consensus was to roll on (prodded by me, for fear someone chimed in to cut it short). About two miles into the extra, my wife and I both hit hungry.

When we’re riding alone we talk a lot. In a group, it’s a little less. I don’t really know why. My wife and I spoke about it extensively about it, just now, and it actually works out for us better for both of us that we don’t talk as much in a pack.

We’d been battling a minor crossing headwind for 22 miles and we’d been up front all but the last mile. I think that was wearing on us a bit, because once we turned south, we picked up the pace… though I won’t lie and say we did it without much effort. We were both audibly hurting. Still, with all but a mile-and-a-half up front, call it two, I got the bright idea we should do the rest of the ride from the front. A friend of ours likes to take 20-mile turns up front the first day of DALMAC, so I wanted to be able to post something on Strava about it.

I got that chance. We finished the 47-miler with 45 up front. It was a great ride.

We cleaned up, ate some lunch and took a nap. After, a little housework was tended to, then I headed to Lansing to meet my colleague for a short round of golf at a neat little 12-hole course.

I was striping the ball the first nine, finishing with a +3 39. The last three holes were a little bit of a struggle, though. I hit TIRED. I’m really happy with how I’m hitting the ball this year. I’m driving around 260-270 and my iron game is solid. The chipping/short game is better than ever, and my putting is solid but could use some work.

I met my wife for dinner after the round and we headed home for bed.

If I were to lay out my idea of a fantastic day, that’d be close enough for government work.

The Difference Between a Good and Fantastic Marriage As I (Currently) Understand It.

Last night was a Thursday night ride in Fenton, the Lake Shannon Loop, and I wasn’t there. In the last decade+, with a perfect evening for cycling like we had last night, I never would have missed that ride.

Earlier in the day, I’d gone to a meeting at one of my jobsites a couple hours before lunch. Then over to my wife’s office fifteen minutes up the road where I completed some paperwork that needed to be completed for another, just up the road. She was in a Zoom meeting with her colleagues, so I stayed out in the car and worked until she texted me the meeting was over. I got a lot done sitting at one of the spare desks in the open office room – enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about working much the next day. Then we went across the street, holding hands, to get lunch.

My wife and I have been married 25 years and we still hold hands everywhere we go. We both love the connection.

We finished our lunch and I headed over to look at another monster of a job we’ve got nearby. I walked that one and talked to our workers on site, walked with the superintendent, then checked out a second building we’re just starting on the same site. That went well and when I was done, I headed back to my wife’s office to finish up my work for the day.

At a quarter past 3 (I work 6am to 3pm for an 8-hour day in 9 hours), I kissed my wife goodbye. She had some late work to do two towns north and I headed to my daughter’s tennis match. She was not expecting to see one of us at her meet. I’d texted her sister earlier to let her know if she came to the meet I’d fill up her gas tank. She jumped at that offer but was running a little late. My youngest was warming up when I walked over to her court and stood at the fence. It was a sunny, warm, beautiful Michigan afternoon and as she turned and it dawned on her that she recognized the lone person standing at the end of her court, her jaw dropped and her eyes welled up with happy tears. I just nodded and said, “I love you, kiddo”.

My girl played her heart out. In between sets, I spoke with our older daughter about things I’d done wrong in my marriage to her mom. I told her about building up fear-based defensive walls to protect my emotions – and more important, I told her why and how I broke them down, hopefully for good (God willing) and what that meant for her mom and I. I don’t think we’ve ever been as happy, and sustainably happy to be together.

It was an amazing evening.

I met my daughter at a gas station and filled her car up, as promised and she went off to see her new hunk of a boyfriend, a transferred rugby player from Rutgers. I drove home alone, a smile on my face, but a dark cloud loomed over my soul… my wife was working late out of town, from 6pm to 8. She never leaves an event like that on time and we had plans to talk about for the wedding/renewal while she drove on the hour-long drive home. This was why I built up the defensive walls I wrote of earlier. I’m the least important person when she’s in a crowd and that hurts. I tried to stay positive. I prayed about it. I prayed hard

And shortly after 8pm I got a text from my wife that she was on her way and on the phone with her mom and would be calling me when she was done talking to her mom. Now it was my turn for the jaw drop. My wife rarely cared enough to do something like that. She’d always defaulted to, “Meh, he’ll be okay”. I never was. See, I’ve always been excited to see my wife, and it hurts when she’s late and doesn’t bother to call (something I do in the rare case I’m running late). And everything I’d emotionally prepared for, this time, was wrong. She left on time and was going over plans for the wedding renewal so her mom could come down for the festivities next month.

True to her text, my wife called a short while later and we made our plans for the event until she was almost home. I took her choice for dinner out of the fridge and heated it up for her so she could eat as soon as she walked in the door. And I was waiting at the door, dressed to the nines in my best business casual, when she pulled in the driveway – exactly how she likes to see me. I kissed her passionately and told her how much it meant that she texted to let me know she’d call soon, that it felt good to matter enough to warrant the small gesture. She looked me up and down and accused me of flirting and said that I always mattered, but she could see why the text helped. She told me how much it meant to her that I took the night off the bike and went to our daughter’s tennis match.

This is a first for us – to think about the other, and the family, in such depth – it’s those little things that are deep; anyone can be there for the big things. For my wife, just a simple text to let me know she’s on her way and talking to her mom. For me, taking a night off cycling (or whatever hobby of the day I’m into) so I can be there for my daughter.

After my wife finished dinner, we wandered off to bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms, smiles on both our faces. My wife and I had a good marriage. When we think of the other enough to go out of our way, well it’s good times and noodle salad, folks. As good as it gets. The difference between good and fantastic.

A Fantastic Weekend on the Tandem… And My Family’s Golfing Torch is Passed.

This was a crazy, awesome weekend. First, my wife and I have been working on us, intensively, for a month. While we both remained committed to our marriage, let’s say we weren’t exactly working for happiness and peace as we could have for the last few years. No blame to either of us, we just needed to change things up. To that end, I started working with a professional last month and, along with some other means of improving my understanding of what it takes to be a better version of me, I’ve been able to make some much needed progress (think page 60 for those in the program). The difference and transformation has been intense, emotional, and difficult. And it’s been entirely worth the effort – and that effort started paying big dividends Friday. It was a breakthrough for us. Something we’ve needed for a long time now.

We had a busy day Friday, so no riding.

Saturday, my youngest had a big tennis match, so we rode early and logged 26-1/3 miles on the tandem before getting dressed and heading over to watch our girl play. That afternoon, I went golfing on an actual course for the first time in a long time, and it was good… though I was shown yet again that I’m not 40 anymore. I was sore Sunday morning. Being sore didn’t stop us from having an awesome ride on the tandem, though. We rolled out with a friend who’d been battling ailments for a month and was finally ready to give Sunday Funday a try. It went smashingly well – especially after I raised my wife and my saddles a millimeter or two (more on that in another post).

After a fantastic Sunday ride of 32-ish miles, we ate an early leftover roast beef lunch and headed out to a bike parade. After that, I texted my daughter to get ready and I headed home to take her to the driving range for the first time. I was excited, not only for having the opportunity to teach my kid to golf and pass on the torch my dad passed on to me, but to work with an empty canvas – my daughter had, until yesterday, never swung a golf club. She had no bad habits to fix!

She started out sluggish at first, as you’d expect, but as the lesson progressed, she really picked up on what she needed to… and she started striking the ball cleanly and putting exactly the right trajectory on the shot. Her first lesson couldn’t have gone better (heck, I wish I’d had that first lesson when I was a kid!). After the golf balls were all down range, we took our clubs and packed them into the car and headed home.

And my daughter has the bug. It is good.

Finally, A Decent Week on the Bike… And Some Bowling… And Golf… And a Couple of Naps… And the Single Biggest Contract of My Career. What a WEEK!

Well, we finally had a decent weekend. Actually, it was better than decent and loooong overdue. It’s going to be back to the cooler side of spring for us tomorrow and we’ve got rain most of today, but at least we had the weekend. And the fantastic weather was taken advantage of. I had to come to work for a rest.

My wife asked if we could ride the tandem Sunday – an ask I’m usually stoked about. I love riding the tandem with my wife. It’s a combination of things, really, and they’re all good.

Our Sunday tandem rides are always billed as “Sunday Funday”, meaning we’re aiming for an average speed in the neighborhood of 17 to 18-mph… and generally we’re pretty good at keeping to that, though every once in a while a real ride breaks out and we end up closer to 20-mph. Anyway, Sunday’s ride did not evolve into the latter. We had a wonderful time on a great 41-mile route. We had three tandems and four or five singles – and excellent group. And the weather was perfect. Sunny, warm and breezy.

We had our Sunday bowling (fun) league later that evening, so after we cleaned up and ate, it was time for a nap. I hate to waste nice days by taking a nap, but after Saturday’s most excellent 55-miler and tennis, I was toast. The nap was unavoidable – almost a requirement.

Sunday’s bowling league night was our last for the season for that league. We didn’t do great as a team, but we had a really good time together.

Monday was a brutal day at work. I hadn’t slept but a few winks the night before because I was working on securing the largest contract of my career – by almost double – and the negotiations were not going our way. It’s a monster of a job but there was a considerable amount of “we want you to do this for free” while they tried to trim our number at the same time. I actually told my counterpart that we were going to walk away from the job. I hurried home from work to hang out with my wife, needing a little bit of comfort after a brutal day. Unfortunately, she was way late getting out. Rather than wait around, pacing, I grabbed my golf clubs and put them in the car. I headed over to the driving range. Too crappy to enjoy riding, but not too crappy to hit a bucket.

Monday night was another restless one. I think I got three hours of sleep. I drank a lot of coffee Tuesday morning.

The negotiations turned positive when we met with the construction manager on the jobsite in the early afternoon. There was something lost in translation over the phone that I was able to fix when we were sitting across from each other and I ended up getting us all of the money we needed to do the job comfortably. It was awesome… and we ended up agreeing on terms before we left. It’s locked in. They’re happy and we’re happy, and we’re going to rock that job out for them. It’s the single biggest contract I’ve ever gotten in my career.

I headed home just a little early and got dinner ready with my wife. The Tuesday Night Club Ride was canceled due to cold, damp weather (it’s a theme around here lately), so we had a fantastic roast beef dinner and followed that with the final episode of Castle before turning in for the night.

I slept like a baby, all night long and woke up in a fantastic mood. I’ve got a lot to attend to this afternoon so there won’t be any cycling, but things start turning for the better tomorrow and into the weekend. This has been interesting, really. Normally, I’m ripping the miles by now, well on my way to mid-season shape. I’m way down on miles, but I’m not worried about it, either. The balance has turned away from cycling a little bit and other things have filled that space. Time will tell what happens for the rest of the year, but I’m actually content with how things are working out. Happy, even.

On Being Thankful for My Dad Passing His Athletic Genes to Me…

My wife pointed out last night that, when it comes to sports, I am truly a blessed man. My father passed on every athletic gene he had to my brothers and I. I’m likely the more well-rounded among us, being better than proficient at hockey, in-line skating, baseball, softball, tennis, running, golf, bowling and cycling. When it comes to golf and cycling, I’m in the upper 1 – 3% – or, I should say, when it came to golf. My brother, Chris has been in the US armed forces since 2002, so you know he’s fit. He’s also proficient at baseball, softball and golf. My brother, Joe is a teaching pro in tennis. He is, without question, excellent and can also play some mean baseball.

In any event, I ended up quitting golf when I couldn’t take my dad anymore. It broke my heart, quite literally. And, truth be told, it was easy to set my clubs aside after that. I had young kids and a wife, and we didn’t have the money for me to keep playing as I had been. I actually worked with a teaching pro for a couple of years. He ran a driving range and had a pro shop just a mile from my office, so every day at lunch I’d head over and hit a bucket of balls. Herb built my clubs with frequency-matched Rifle shafts, adding 1-1/2″ to each, then dialed in the loft and lie to match my upright stance (think Jim Furyk without the crazy loop at the top of the backswing). Then he taught me the proper way to use those clubs. I devoted quite a bit of time, money and effort into golf, and I got good. Shooting par at my favorite courses became fairly regular. I was deadly with my short irons, decent with my mid- and long irons, and could stripe a drive down the center of the fairway 310 yards out (my longest, with a tailwind, was 340-ish). My first eagle was on a 540 yard par five. Driver 310, 5-wood to the back of the green, and I drained a 40′ putt.

Well, I expected all of that would end when I hung up the clubs. I figured my natural draw that I’d worked so hard to develop, would go away, and I knew I’d lose a lot of distance should I ever pick the sport up again.

I tried a few years ago, but that was short-lived as the pain of not being able to go with my dad was still too great. I figured that was about it for me and golf.

Our COO and VP of Operations recently asked me to start taking part in industry golf outings for the company. I’d also been pressured by a bowling buddy to hit a links or two with him… so golfing, all of a sudden, was back in the picture and I had to figure out how to make peace with not being able to golf with my dad anymore.

That’s when I started looking into customizing his set of clubs to fit me… and they turned out wonderfully. I started swinging the day after I got them back (it’s always good to let the glue set up an extra day on new grips)… and have been astonished to find I didn’t lose much at all. I’m eight years older and have only swung the clubs three times in the last eight years… and golf is absolutely a perishable skill. I should be horrible but I’m absolutely striping the ball. Sure, I have to work on my aim a little bit (that’s clearly a bit off), but I’ve got a nice little draw on the ball and it’s going far.

So, when I saw my wife was going to get home late for work and the rain had cleared up, I decided to head over to the range to hit a bucket last evening. I did my normal progression through the clubs – short irons first, SW or PW, then odd numbered irons up to the 5, then a 7-wood, 5-wood and finally, the driver. I’m carrying about 225 to 235 with range balls (about 240 to 255 with a decent ball) on the driver, and my fairway metals are looking fair (I need some work there). The big deal, though, is my irons. I mishit one pitching wedge yesterday and thinned two 5-irons. Other than that, while my aim needs improvement, the rest of my iron shots were solid.

In fact, I can’t remember ever hitting my old irons that well. Which means those Big Bertha irons you see up there are almost as forgiving as Jesus.

Whatever the case, the important thing is I’ve made my peace with my dad’s passing by getting his old clubs fitted and using them. I can’t help but feel he’s up there looking down with a smile on his face.

And that’s as good as it gets.

My Break From Back Pain Ending is Directly Related to a Lack of Cycling

I haven’t bothered riding much lately. The weather sucks and I’ve been into other things that have kept me happy and busy. First, I’ve been doing a lot of mental work that needed to be done – something to better myself. I’ve started this new thing called “centering prayer” at the suggestion of a buddy of mine who happens to be one of the best abuse counselors in the area. First, if you’ve never sat alone with your thoughts and just let them happen, Jesus is it interesting, but a little spooky. The first week was downright disconcerting. A lot of the things I legitimately blamed on my wife started with flaws of my own (a passage in the Big Book of AA comes to mind – something about “we invariably found that at some point in the past we made decisions based on self that later placed us in a position to be hurt”). F***. It’s been emotionally draining but in a really good way. I’ve learned more about myself in the last month than I had in the last ten years. The important aspect here is not what is “good” or “bad” about what I’ve learned, but what I can change. It’s good work, too, though mentally difficult. Opening my eyes to where I’ve been falling short has been a massive exercise of a different sort.

I’ve begun my return to golfing but that’s relied a lot on the weather as well. Also, my mother-in-law is staying with us while her husband, my wife’s stepdad, is recovering at a local senior home from back surgery. This has meant the trainer bikes are out in the garage (there’s only room for my wife’s Alias and my Venge in the house)… so we would have to traipse all the way out to the garage to get our bikes to hook them up to the trainer, then ride, then shower, then take the bikes back outside… let’s just say that’s a little more than my motivation and discipline can handle at the moment.

On the other hand, the weather is finally making a turn for the better starting today. And now we won’t have to battle the cold… but the rain. Sheesh. We’ll be dodging raindrops tomorrow and Friday.

Anyway, getting back to the issue at hand. As I’ve been taking time away from cycling my back has slowly degraded to the point I actually had to take an AdviNol for the pain last night. It’s been a long time since I had to go there – and I knew immediately what the problem was; I need to get my butt back on that bike to loosen stuff up!

And so I shall.

Yet another lesson in fitness; if you think being fit hurts, try the couch for a while. Now that’s pain!

Mask Mandates and Fun with Science.

Ah, I can still hear the popular refrain from two years ago, “we have to follow the science!”

Well, let’s see how closely we have to follow the science now that science has spoken on mask mandates:

The word “useless” works.

I’m not going to suggest we get all snarky about this. If you were one of the gullible who bought into the mask hoopla, please accept that you were wrong with humility and remember this in the future.

Thank you.

Lest you believe the chart above is fake and likely produced by some anti-vax right-wing Trump supporting tabloid,

Try the former New York Times science correspondent, John Tierney for the City Journal. Via Power Line.

Well, part of that isn’t left-wing… but you gotta ask yourself, would the left-wing actually give you the story straight?

Don’t count on it. More on that later. In the meantime, burn those silly things.

Happy Easter! It’s a time for rebirth.

I’ve been exploring outstanding ways to be a better version of me for about a month now. How can I clean up? How can I love my wife and kids better? How can I be a better husband and dad? How can I do better work? And most important, does any of that extra effort translate into being happier? After all, if the extra effort doesn’t translate into good, should I continue?

At that last point, I’m tempted to finish the question with “is it worth the effort?” That is entirely the wrong way to look at it, though. On one hand, if there are things I need to clean up, it’s always worth the effort to clean my mess (physical or emotional).

On the other hand, and this is where it gets tricky, there is no external reward outside of my own peace of mind for the effort. That hurts. Worse, I’ve found being tidier emotionally meant the protective walls I’d built to be less susceptible to my emotions crumbled.

This was unexpected and troublesome. I don’t like how I feel as a result of the work I’ve done. I’m vastly better at things I’d neglected over the last decade or so but that comes at a price of being more emotionally connected to everything outside me… things I have no control over. I find myself moody over things that wouldn’t normally affect me. And I don’t like it.

I’m on stronger spiritual ground but feel weaker emotionally.

Interestingly, I thought this was going to be a lot easier when I started cleaning myself up. I only expected the up-side.

Thankfully, I’m not going this alone. I have professional help. Sponsors are great, but I’m not dabbling in simple step work here. In golf parlance, I’m trying to drive the green. In bowling, I’m going for a 300. In cycling, I’m looking for a sub 4h:20m on a century with a first for the sprint across the final City Limits sign.

It’s about time I grew a little bit. In fact, it’s a bit of a rebirth. A lot like Easter…

It depends on your perspective, I suppose. Many said, once news of the empty resting place of Jesus got around, “He is risen!”

Many others said, “Oh shit, He is risen”.

One thing I haven’t lost sight of in the midst of this is that I know there’s freedom once the work is done, and that freedom will be vastly better than I hoped it would be. It’s sure is interesting getting there, though!

More later.

The Coolest Thing I Learned About Bowling Balls Going from An Average to Above Average Bowler

I built a three-ball bowling ball arsenal for this year. With my multiple expensive hobbies, I dare not go beyond three as I’d be wearing thin on my wife’s patience. I’ve got an exceptionally strong asymmetrical solid, a weaker semi-shiny hybrid symmetrical, and a plastic spare ball.

So, not knowing any better, I’d been using the two strike balls backwards on my Friday night league for a couple of weeks, and I still didn’t… erm, know any better. I was a bit clueless. One Saturday morning, my wife, daughter and I went to the lanes for a couple hours of fun practice. My normal alley was packed with a local tournament so we headed down the road to another alley.

I started out with the aggressive solid because it was the newer ball and I loved throwing it. My first shot went straight across the head pin. Barely glanced it. There was clearly too much hook, so I moved right and gave it another go. High flush… too high. I moved right again. I was standing on 30 and the ball was too strong for the lane. It was hooking too early so I switched to my Hammer (that I normally threw first on Fridays). Now, I didn’t exactly know the strong reactive ball was hooking “too early” at the time – that was something I figured out later. Anyway, moving along with the Hammer Scorpion…

First shot – skid, hook, roll, pins explode, everything in the pit. A perfect strike. Next shot… BOOM. Everything in the pit.

I didn’t throw the stronger Brunswick the rest of our practice session. It stayed on the rack. I killed it with the Hammer.

There was no way I could throw the Scorpion like that and hope for a pocket shot on Friday night. The shot is simple with the stronger Quantum Evo, though. Still, it didn’t sink in, yet. The math didn’t quite add up in my head, so I continued on with the Hammer.

The next Friday I struggled early with the Scorpion, so I switched to the Brunswick after just a few frames. I struggled, but not quite as much.

I went to that alternate alley for practice Sunday, by myself this time. I started with the Quantum, then switched almost immediately to the Scorpion. The Brunswick was too much ball for the lane.

And that’s exactly when all of the information clicked into place in all of an instant. Strong balls that hook “early”. Weak balls that hook a lot but hook later and sharper, on the back end. Strong balls spend their energy early, weak balls save it. Looking at the lane lengthwise, not widthwise. And most important; sometimes different lanes simply need different bowling balls… and that’s why the pros run around with 15 different balls to a tournament – because certain balls react better to certain lanes.

At that point, it was just a matter of committing my new style of rolling the ball to muscle memory and my scores started coming up considerably. Now I don’t even reach for the Scorpion on Friday nights till I’ve burned up the left side of the lane. It’s the only ball I use on Sunday night, though, because the Quantum Evo is WAY too much ball for the alley we bowl at**. I’m knocking down 200+ games on a consistent basis, now.

So that’s it; some bowling balls just don’t work on some lanes. That’s why it makes sense to not rely on just one and a spare ball.

**Wouldn’t you know, I wrote this the day before throwing a split 300 with the Quantum Evo at the Sunday night alley. There was a little more oil than normal that night and the Scorpion just wouldn’t hook up like it normally does. While I did reasonably well in the first game (a 179), I felt I could do better with the stronger Quantum Evo so I switched midway through the second game. I cracked off six strikes in a row to finish that game with a 218. Then, I started the next game with six more… a 300 stretched over two games. The important lesson for me was, “do what the lane says do”. The second, that was my first ever twelve strikes in a row… I am actually capable of a 300. Oh, I’m stoked.

Friday Night Bowling League: The Work Finally Pays Off

I am absolutely, undoubtedly beat this morning. Writing this post actually hurts a little bit. Last night was worth it. Everything I’ve been working for since I changed every aspect of my bowling game from my equipment to how I throw the ball down the lane, came together last night. My wife and I rode on the trainers around lunchtime but I was careful to not overdo it so I had some in the tank for bowling.

I showed up early to warm up but that was rather dull for a change. Of the three games I threw, none were bad… they just weren’t all that great, either. A little above my 175 average.

The pre-league warm-up went well but nothing too fiery, either. I was right where I wanted to be on my last three shots of warm-up. I had it dialed in. I started with a perfect strike. Nothing tricky, no messengers, just pins in the pit. My second, I missed a little and 9-spared. Then, another strike. I opened in the fourth frame but then went on a nice rip of spares before ending the game five strikes in a row between the eighth and tenth frames for a cool 212.

I was just getting started.

I started the second game with a strike, followed by a 9-spare, then a turkey. I spared in the six and ninth. The rest were strikes. I finished the game with a nice 233 and won the high game + handicap (280) for a nice $60 payoff.

Unfortunately, with that game, I’d burned up the lane. Cliffed it, really. I struggled finding the pocket in my last game and had to grind to get a 151. Even with that lame last game I finished the night with a 198 average. I was the only one to stay after for practice, so I took advantage and blew through four games – three trying and one speed round. The three games were decent with a 215 and 225 in there. I didn’t need to throw the fourth. I was cooked.

I didn’t waste any time packing up and getting out the door. I cleaned my equipment and went straight to bed.

Finally, after all of the changes, things are starting to come together solidly. It’s a good feeling.