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New Bike Day for My Wife! A Classic Comes Home.

You’re going to need a little background for this post… and this next bit is especially for Brent who will undoubtedly wonder why we needed another road bike. Stay with me here, this is a very cool story. If that bike had been a 56, I’d have snapped it up long before my wife even gave it a glance.

My wife had expressed enthusiasm about doing triathlons years ago. Her first bike was an alloy road bike and, at the beginning of 2014, Specialized announced the Alias; a road bike with triathlon-specific geometry and aero bars so the bike could be legitimately dual purpose. I wanted for my wife to have a nice ride like I had, so I bought her one for Christmas that year. I bought that bike from our local bike shop. My wife and I are very good friends with the owner. We ride with him regularly, volunteer with him and for him. His brother was my grade school gym teacher. He and his wife are a blessing in our lives.

He’s also a fantastic frame builder. He’s built world-record frames (and has one hanging in his shop). He apprenticed in England building Matthews frames and came back to the states, eventually settling in Flint, then Swartz Creek, Michigan where he owned bike and frame shops. I’ve wanted an original Assenmacher for years but there hasn’t been a 58 that’s come up for sale and Matt only made classic frames and tandems. So, when an astonishingly light Assenmacher with Campagnolo components and Eurus wheels showed up on the display, Matt offered for my wife to take it home and give it a ride to see what it was like to ride a steel bike.

She didn’t like it at first. The handlebar was all wrong – too much reach. The stem was too long, and the saddle was less than fantastic. I put one of my stems on the bike and a Power Mimic saddle that we borrowed from a friend, and set her saddle height, fore/aft position and tilted the handlebars up so that brought the reach a little closer. After the modifications, she took it for a spin while I was at work and loved it. I’d gotten the saddle perfect and the reach was closer to livable. Best, she said the bike was more comfortable than the triathlon geometry of her Alias – and that it was livelier in the handling and when putting power to the pedals. This is what we were looking for.

And so my wife will forever have a frame built by a friend.

I wrote the check the other day and she went in to pick it up.

I’ll have a full write-up with photos once we get all of the new parts on it. A new short reach handlebar that we bought with the bike, and we have carbon fiber bar-end plugs, carbon fiber cages (all matching the carbon fiber weave of the derailleur, crank and shifters), and some slick Cinelli bar tape that’s got gold flecks in it to tie in the gold trim on the beautiful blue frame. It’s going to be exceptional when done.

I’ll get the thing on a scale after the modifications but if it tops 18 pounds, I’d be shocked. It’s currently showing 17.5 without bar tape on the big scale. My wife’s carbon fiber Alias is a pound heavier (though it has aero bars and the Assenmacher doesn’t). I’m stoked for her.

Why Choose Recovery from Addiction? There Is A Short Answer.

Recovery from addiction, and I mean following a process that allows one to become recovered over time, with effort and an actual plan is a commitment. Now, any addict knows why they should choose recovery. This part isn’t rocket science. Life using is often quite awesome at the start. Life addicted, sucks.

Every addict knows this, and every person who has one of those tornados tear through their life will attest.

Fear is what makes the addict balk.

Fear of what’s out there without drugs, alcohol, or both. Fear that there is nothing good out there without getting high. Fear of failing recovery. Look, any reason to stay in addiction is based on fear.

That fear is misplaced.

Anyone can choose recovery and win. Big. If that’s what is worked for.

As we come to the holiday season, if you’re out there in the cold, know there is hope. There is peace. There is contentment beyond your wildest dreams. There is joy.

It all starts with a choice. It won’t always be easy, of course. Given time and effort, it will be good.

Don’t fear recovery. Be afraid of one more day without it.

If you give recovery everything you’ve got, you’re promised that you’ll be amazed before you’re halfway through. And, if by some miracle you’re recovery doesn’t live up to the hype, you’re welcome to having your misery back any time you like. Just pick up again.

Thirty Years, One Day at a Time… 10,958 Times in a Row.

As of last Wednesday night, I wasn’t one day closer to a drink… not surprisingly, I was just one day closer to 30 years.

We have a new guy with just a few months, when I passed my 30-year coin around (it’s a tradition to pass one’s coin around so others can rub good vibes, karma, or juju on it, whichever you prefer), who said he couldn’t even imagine how someone could amass that much time in recovery.

I can remember sitting in my first open talk, just a few days into my journey, thinking it would be awesome to be around to give one on my one year anniversary. I did, of course, and I gave my first open talk on my anniversary. One of the old-timers made it happen, simply because he knew I had that dream. When I had that hope, sitting through my first open talk, I hadn’t even made the decision to give recovery a chance, let alone everything I had. That would come another week and a half later.

It’s said in meetings, anyone can stay sober for the hour you’re sitting in a meeting, the real test is what you do with the other 23-hours that counts.

Well, hitting 30 years is a little harder, but it’s much the same concept; don’t drink, don’t die, work the steps, recover. Before you know it, one day turns into 10,958 and you get to celebrate 30 years. My next big milestone will be around 31 years 259 days. Give or take. And I’ll hit that the same way I hit 30. One day at a time. I won’t drink today. As long as I don’t die and I keep working the steps, I’ll make it till I fall asleep. I’ll do the same tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. 617 more in a row.

Why a billion seconds? My dad, when I was a teenager, explained the concept of a Billion Dollars by explaining you couldn’t count to a billion in a lifetime. The idea is, it takes three or four seconds to hit the bigger numbers and you have to sleep and eat, too. With a billion seconds at 31 years, it isn’t difficult to see counting to a billion would be futile (and an entire waste of life). Without taking this too silly, that conversation with my dad meant a lot, having stuck with me so long, so now that he’s gone I’m looking forward to that milestone because that’s a little part of him that’s stuck with me.

Oh, and if you’re one of those contrarians who want to point out I shouldn’t have such “milestones” in recovery, that it’s only “one day at a time” and we shouldn’t celebrate such silly dalliances… dude, you’re a stick in the mud. Live a little, would ya? Recovery is a celebration from being delivered from misery every day. You can have a little more fun on the big days without falling into a pit of morass. Or more ass as the case might be.

Why the Specialized S-Works Crux ISN’T The One (All-Purpose Bike)

I watched a YouTube video (link below) that suggests in the Title that the S-Works Crux, a $12,500 bicycle, might be The ONE. The ONE all-purpose bike that let’s you do it all. Group rides, road rides, dirt rides, the whole nine.

It is, without a doubt, a decent bike. Especially the eTap wireless electronic shifting option. I’m going to pull the curtains back on this one pretty fast, though. The ONE, this ain’t.

At around 17-pounds (7.7 kg), it’s a fairly light gravel bike. However, while it does have a decent set of Roval wheels on it out of the box, you’d need a road set of 50s to make the most of a club ride. Especially so you don’t have to swap tires to ride gravel or road. Unless, of course, you like spending your free time swapping tires around throughout the summer months… oh, and working a little harder than everyone else in the group your riding… So you’re looking at another $1,000 to $2,000 for your road wheels, plus another $120-ish for tires. Oh, and rotors, and a cassette… and shims so you can swap one set for the other without messing with the brake calipers. Throw on another $300.

We’re not done yet, though. That $12,500 bike that is already up around $14,000, comes with a 1x drivetrain. With a 10t to 44t cassette and a 40t chainring. Now, the fella in the video actually said he spins out at about 34-mph in the last gear 40/10. This makes sense. I could probably get it to 37 with a little extra kick, but you’re out of gear there. I can get 45-mph out of a 50/34 and 11/28 cassette. 37 is pretty good, though, so maybe swap out a 42t chainring for a little extra oomph in the sprint? Hold on, though, sparky. There’s another problem that must be addressed before we call this good. You’re looking at a 12-speed 1x system with a 10 to 44t cassette.

Having already played this game before, here are the cogs:

10-11-12-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-38-44

You’ve got a 1-tooth jump for the smallest three cogs, but you’ll always be in the wrong gear going from the 12 to 15. So I’m not going to bother doing the math on Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator site. Actually, I will. And wouldn’t you know it, I was right. See below for the results.

You’ve got a massive hole between 19 & 24-mph. So you’d need to shrink that chainring so the hole is in the slower speeds. But we need a bigger chain ring for the sprint!

So let’s throw another $700 at the problem and get a front derailleur, a double crank with a legit 50/34 crankset on it (surprisingly, it looks like the original shifter might work with a 1 or 2x).

So your $12,500 Crux is now just shy of $15,000 and you’re finally ready for a road ride! Wow, I’m tired. And exceptionally broke.

The Crux isn’t The ONE. I’d take my 10-year-old 16-pound Venge over a brand new S-Works Crux out of the box in a road ride any day of the week and twice, literally, on Sunday. And I’d work you into the ground on your S-Works Crux with a smile on my face…

30 Years In Recovery: If You Know Now What I Didn’t Know Then. Part One.

One thing I’ve always lamented in recovery is that I can’t take what’s in my head and cram it into the thick skull of someone new to recovery… not so they could have my experiences, but so they could know there doesn’t need to be fear in working the steps. I was one who procrastinated with the fourth step till I damn-near drank. The sad thing, really, was a lack of ability to understand exactly what I would have needed to push me over the start line. In fact, hesitation to work a step is a lot like a runner who gets up to the starting line of a race and stops dead in his or her tracks just before crossing and says, “You know, I just don’t think I’m ready for this… I think I’ll stand right here for a while and contemplate my options. What if I put my foot over that line? Will I still be happy?” Newly recovering people do this regularly.

Those outside the program might think that sounds legitimately crazy, but read step four and step five and think about doing that in your life. If that doesn’t strike a little fear and hesitation, you aren’t fully grasping the task. Give it a go and get back with me in the comment section what you think.

Part One of this series is very simple; let go.

If I had any idea how good the freedom from my baggage would feel, I’d have leapt at the opportunity to start immediately. In fact, letting go of old habits to grow closer to the light is an ongoing saga in a recovering person’s life. As we get closer to the light, more of the mess we have about us becomes visible as the illumination increases.

Looking at the new mess to clean up in a negative light was entirely wrong, but reflexive. Until recently. I tended to cling to that mess because at least it was a comfortable mess. Letting go is always a touch on the nebulous side. What if things don’t work out in my favor? What if I don’t like the change? How will my desires (which are often mislabeled “needs”) be met?

What if, just like cleaning up all of the previous messes in the last thirty years, life becomes more enjoyable, though? And so I’ve come to embrace cleaning up newly illuminated messes. Sure, it’s hard work and I usually find I’ve got a lot more to learn… and sometimes the cleanup process is even a little embarrassing. The rewards far outweigh that petty bullshit.

Try it. You just might like it.

Winter Arrives Early in 2022… Um. Yippee. Not Really

I know, Brent. If I had a couple of fat bikes… but I don’t, and for the time being, I hate winter. Hate is a strong, powerful word. Properly used. I suppose, on the positive side of the equation, Jess and I slept in till 7:01 this morning. That hasn’t happened since July when we were on a cruise ship.

We got another couple of inches of snow last night. Enough the plow came through.

I don’t know if anyone else from our group is riding outdoors but Jess and I are hanging inside this morning. It’s time to start going through our DVDs again. Thankfully, we have more than enough to get through the winter without watching the same movie twice. Though I will. It’s about time to get that Star Wars collection dusted off!

In other fun and exciting news, my wife is throwing a dinner party this afternoon for my anniversary. Old friends and new, we’re all heading out to a local restaurant for a nice time together.

I’ll have to check the menu for noodle salad.

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.

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