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Am I Happy Because I’m a True Believer, Or A True Believer Because I’m Happy? The Best Reason I Know of for an Early Recovery from Addiction.

I’ve been kicking around a tough topic to put into writing for quite some time but I figured I’d just quit stalling and muscle through it and just hope for the best.  I was pushed into this yesterday when I bumped into one of the lead architects on the project we’re working on.  We exchanged pleasantries, and he asked how I was doing in the process.  I gave my usual answer, “It’s another day in paradise”.  His response surprised me.  He replied, “I think you need to raise your bar for paradise”.

Never mind the obvious, that it’s odd for someone so high in the construction food chain to come back with “raise the bar”, but my response truly confounds people – especially when they find out I’m a true believer; this really is paradise – it’s supposed to be.  As we parted ways, I added, “Well, once you’ve been through hell and found out you don’t have to go back, you’d be surprised at what passes for “paradise”.

That’s the key to my happiness.  Well, that and a spectacular wife, but let’s not get lost in the weeds here.

The hardest part of my life – as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug – was lived 26 years ago.  I survived addiction, a hopeless state of mind and body.  I chose to accept the obvious and beat addiction through hard work and a desire to stop digging my own grave.  By “hard work”, I mean exactly that.  I didn’t sit back and hope for the best, I followed a plan to fix what was wrong with my character that kept me drinking.  Once that was done, all that was left was to change everything else – and then, once that was done, all I had to do was change how I perceived and reacted to the life that happened around me.  Folks, all of that takes a little practice – real recovery is dirty, messy, hard mental work and it takes decades to get really good at it.

So, looked at from that perspective, every day I wake up to yet another daily reprieve from my madness and my own personal hell.  I don’t have to live that way ever again – and what I’ve got now, when contrasted against what I had, it becomes easy to understand why I see my life as a paradise on earth; I am truly free, and that’s a beautiful way to live.

I got home from work yesterday at a few minutes to 5 and readied my Trek for a ride.  I pumped up the tires, filled a water bottle, and got dressed.  A few minutes later I was cruising down the road in the sunshine, thinking about how good it is to be me… it was a wonderful ride, working on my tan and getting some much needed Vitamin D into my system.  After pulling into the driveway with a smile on my face, I showered, ate some dinner, and fell asleep, thankful for another day on the right side of the grass.

I’ll likely do it all over again today, and it’s going to start remembering my daily reprieve from that hopeless state of mind and body.  I can have my misery back anytime, all I have to do is pick up a drink or a drug.  Choosing paradise has become easy.

In the end, the my answer is obvious; I’m happy because I’m a true believer.  God has done for me what I could never do for myself.  He relieved my of my compulsion to drink and I did the work necessary to make sure I don’t have to go back.  I truly believe, down to my baby toes, that today really is another day in paradise.  That is my choice.

Just a thought.

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2019 is Turning Into the Year Of Getting Miles in Where I Can…

This year, overall, has been a little disheartening for cycling.  The weather absolutely sucks and has for most of the spring.  We’ve been ten to fifteen degrees (F) below normal since February, with only a few decent days at “average” temperatures.  Add to that, I’m working out of town enough that getting my miles in is quite difficult.

Friday, I looked at my Garmin 7 day rolling mileage total… 188 for last week.  This week I’m only down seven miles from that.  With all of the crap I’m dealt, that’s not all that bad… better than I expected, anyway.  Two weeks ago I managed 180 miles, too…  Big picture, I’m woefully behind last year.  I have no chance of catching up.  Five and a half months into the year and something like 800 miles behind last year. 10,000 miles just isn’t going to happen.  I was prepared for falling short, though.  Last year was the perfect storm of awesome, there was no chance of a repeat.

The decent side of this story has been, for the most part, the fact that the weekends have been dry.   Cold, but relatively dry, so we’ve been able to get in some decent miles on Saturday and Sunday (62 and 56 miles this past weekend).

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though.  Today is supposed to be the last day of the radically cold weather.  We jump from 50° F (10 C) to 65 (18 C) tomorrow and it only gets better from there – we actually have the upper 70’s in sight.  We’ll still have some rain to contend with, but at least we’ll be able to put the vests, arm and leg warmers in the dresser for a bit.

Work won’t change for a couple of more months, though.  We’ll have to see how that goes.  One day at a time.  Easy does it.

 

Cycling and the High Capacity Water Bottles; Not Quite as Useless as Nipples on a Bull, but Close. A Funny Junior Science Experiment.

I will first cop to using the high capacity 26 oz. water bottles for years, thinking I needed them because I’m an endurance cyclist.

I am. I like the long distances and light, racy bikes. Here’s a photo of my Specialized Venge the day I brought it home in late 2013:

Big, Extra oz. H2O bottles

I swore I needed the extra capacity to keep me hydrated. One day I noticed the shorter regular water bottles were used predominantly by the faster crowd. I thought they were dupes.

Then, I bought carbon fiber bottle cages for the Venge. The hi-cap bottles rattled when I hit a bump and it drove me nuts. Eventually, I happened on a small, regular capacity water bottle that worked with the bottle cages. I still carried the big bottles around for the long rides and lived with the rattle, though.

I needed the extra hydration, right?

Look real close at that photo… that’s from last year, on the Northwest Tour with my friends, a 72 mile day.

Well, one day I’d decided to use a regular bottle after filling up a junior. I dumped the contents of the small bottle into the regular and my jaw dropped.

Folks, there was a sip’s difference. A sip.

Don’t take my word for it… try the experiment yourself.

Better, there’s only a sip’s difference between the regular and the high capacity bottle. A sip.

I never used one of those big bottles again, and I’ve never regretted it or prematurely run out of something to drink on a ride.

It’s not that they’re entirely useless, those big bottles. They rattle around in carbon fiber cages. And we can’t have that. If, after completing the experiment for yourself, you still feel you need a big ole water bottle, by all means; have at it. I’d bet you see the light I did, though.

Not All Bikes are Created Equal… Some Parts Just Won’t Work on Older Steeds

I had some lofty plans for my Trek…  My wife is sending me on a road camping trip with my boys up north for three days of cycling fun.  Because my Trek is so easy to fix, it’s geared for hills, and it’s exceptionally comfortable over long hauls, I generally leave the Specialized home for road trips (The Horsey Hundred being the exception to the rule – I ride the Trek on Northwest and DALMAC).

This year, I wanted to take the good wheels off the Venge and put them on the Trek.  Both bikes are Shimano 10 speed (Ultegra on the Venge, 105 on the 5200), so I went after it the other day.

I took the wheels off both bikes, swapped the brake pads (you never use the same brake pads for aluminum and carbon fiber wheels – if you get a flake of metal from the brake track of an aluminum rim stuck in the pad (a common occurrence) and then use that pad on a carbon wheel… oh, dear, that’s bad.

Then I took the wheels off the Venge and put the front on the Trek.  The 25mm rim width was too wide for the 1999 Ultegra rim brakes.  Everything was skinny back then.  Even with the brake cable loose, the calipers wouldn’t spread wide enough to accept the wheel… worse, when I let out air to get the wheel on, the pads, barely cleared the brake track.  In other words, unless I swapped brake calipers too, there’s just no way this was going to work.

I fitted both bikes with their original parts.

My friends, sometimes you just gotta leave well enough alone.  The Trek is definitely good enough with the alloy wheels that I don’t have to mess around with swapping wheels that won’t work anyway.  Worse, I only had about a millimeter each side of clearance at the chainstays to boot.  Had I forced it and used the good wheels on the Trek anyway, the tire could have rubbed the chainstays every time I got out of the saddle.

In this case, my older 5200 was simply made for skinnier tires and wheels.  While I would be able to partially rectify the problem with some modern brake calipers, in the end I’d still have a clearance issue – I’d need 23 mm rims in lieu of the 25’s on the Venge.

This provides a good lesson for those cyclists out there who don’t quite pay too much attention to all of the little details; not all bikes are created equal.  Retrofitting an older steed with newer parts is fraught with issues that are often difficult to grasp or anticipate.

If you’re going to keep from damaging your old bike, you’ve gotta be able to address any issues before you ride.  And, as in this case for me, accept that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.

I’ll just have to take both bikes up north for our trip.

Sometimes All I Have to Do is Show Up… Every Once in a While That Might Be a Bad Idea. Case in Point.

Coming home from work yesterday, I just wasn’t with it.  I had an upset stomach, it felt a lot like heartburn (and I don’t get heartburn.  Ever) and I was exhausted.  I sat on my bed with my cycling clothes next to me and all I wanted to do was sleep.  Wiped out is a better term than “exhausted”.

I figured it was stress so I set a goal of just suiting up.  Once accomplished, I set a new goal of getting out the door with my Trek.  Accomplished.

The next goal was ten miles.  Just put in ten miles and come home.  A little more than 30 minutes.  Accomplished.  Ten miles in I still had seven and a half to get home.  The new goal was 17-1/2 miles in under an hour.  Not bad for a recovery ride.  Accomplished.  58 minutes, 30 seconds.  Everything shut down and in the house, I showered up – and that’s when it hit me.  The first real wave of nausea.  Even under the hot water and after a ride just shy of room temperature, I was freezing.  Food poisoning.  Without question.

The rest of the night was a blur, in and out sleep.  I woke up at midnight after falling asleep at 7:30 and had a miserable time getting back to sleep.  I hurt all over.  Sleep consumed me eventually, though, and I didn’t wake up till just before the alarm.  The chills left sometime in the middle of the night, and I felt a lot better.  Still a little rough around the edges, but I’ll live.  It’s 3:45 am and I’m headed for the shower and my 2-hour commute in to work.  It’s going to be a hectic day and there’s no way I’ll be able to miss, so I’m going to suck it up.

If anything, it’ll be interesting.

And that’s a first, by the way – toughing out a bike ride in just an hour before full-blown food poisoning sets in.  Stupid, maybe, but it was actually a nice ride… except when I almost hurled on my top tube after two miles into a dead-east wind.  Woof.

For those who “listen to their body”, I’m pretty sure mine had a curse word or two laced into something about me being stupid.  Better than a swift kick in the butt, though.

A Bike Ride a Day Keeps the Gloom Away

My friends, I’m deep in it right now. The job I’m commuting two hours each way to is in the home stretch and I’m managing more than 100 workers…. and we’re on the hot seat.  Which means I’ve been getting out late every afternoon.  This will go on until it’s another trade’s turn to be on the hot seat (should be the electricians this week).

I haven’t been riding near as much as I’d like. In fact, not even close. On the plus side, when I can ride, my legs are fresh as a sunny spring day. On the other side of the ledger, an hour a day keeps me sharp, happy, and motivated.  Without my daily escape, life gets tricky.  The weather hasn’t been cooperating much, either.

Finally, after a soggy, busy week, I was able to get out for a ride with my friends yesterday for a 53-miler. It was quite chilly to start, but it warmed up just in time. We even had the sun make an appearance, and that boosted my mood immensely.  We were into a mild headwind for the first 26 miles before finally turning to loop home – roughly about the time the sun started poking through the clouds.

I can’t say it was the tailwind that got me smiling, because that really wasn’t much of a help at all.  It was a combination of being out with my friends and the sunshine warming me up that really improved my mood.  Before long, all I could think about was how lucky I was to be me; to have the friends I do, to be able to enjoy the fresh air without excuses or hindrances.  When we turned onto my street, I was a little bummed that my ride was over.  It had been a good one, but I could have gone another fifteen or twenty miles.

Which was a little ironic, because after I showered and cut the grass, my wife came home and asked if I’d go out for a leg-stretcher with her – real slow, just an easy effort to get the blood flowing.  We cajoled my youngest to ride the tandem for a bit, so I gave her the Garmin, put my new Varia radar taillight on the back and explained how everything worked (a friend bought the new Varia because it’s a little more “aero” and gave me his old one last week)… funny how a little technology will keep a kid into something they really didn’t want to do – she spent the whole ride letting mom know when there was a car back.  My youngest only lasted a little less than six miles on the tandem, so I put that in the house and took my Venge out for the final ten miles.

For the rest of the night I felt like I was “back”.  After all last week stuck on the trainer, it was nice to shake the cobwebs out on the road.  My mood is vastly improved – and we’ve got another 70 planned for this morning, so the melon committee might even be under control later this afternoon.  I’d bet on it.

Cycling Every Day; How I Trained My Body to Keep Up with My Desire to Ride (It’s not Difficult, but It ain’t Easy, Either).

I’ve been riding every day for the better part of four years now.  I took 21 days off all of last year.  I went more than a month without a day off several times, and managed to average 29 miles a day when I did ride.

For a working fella, there’s a trick to riding every day.  I had to acquire an off button.  Technically, this off button doesn’t shut me down, it shuts the voice in my melon that wants to push it every single day I ride.  My first three years riding, I didn’t know any better so I pushed it almost every day until my legs were smoked.  Then I’d take a day or two off.  I worked in scheduled days off, too, because everyone said I had to take time off to realize my fitness goals.  I didn’t like that much at all – cycling was my way to clear my head and refocus on why I love life so much.  I wanted to ride every day for that benefit alone.

Eventually, as I grew into the sport, I learned that it was okay to take an easy day on a regular basis.  Self-knowledge is about as useful as toilet paper in the next stall, though.  I had to train myself to be okay with sitting up and enjoying a ride now and again if I wanted to ride daily without over-training.

So, for me, that voice says that if I feel good, if my legs feel alright, then I should take the opportunity of being out on a ride as an opportunity to increase my strength, stamina, and fitness by pushing it a little bit.  For years I didn’t even know I should shut that down and I ended up with over-training issues and even a couple of minor overuse injuries.  Once I learned that I could ride every day, pain-free and without repercussions, if I simply told that voice to sit down and shut up, my level of enjoyment increased exponentially.

As in recovery, riding is more about managing my melon than my legs.

And that’s my secret to a happy bike ride.  Fast, or my approximation of slow.

Ride hard, my friends. And enjoy the ride; most aren’t lucky enough to know the joy of riding a bicycle or running.