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2018 Cycling Wrap-up, the Year in Review

4,998 relatively easy ride miles
2,741 sport miles
386 mountain bike miles
1,990 trainer miles

Total: 10,115

In several respects I think 2018 was one of the best years of my life.

There’s no doubt recovery was spectacular, easily one of my most enjoyable ever.  After a thorough review of the year, I did it right.  I had a few problem areas, but on the whole, I’m happy with where I’m at.  I was able to, as we say, “let go and let God” through much of the problems, so things turned out better than had I messed with the mix and gummed it up.

For my marriage, again, it was a spectacular year.  My wife and I both had a great time of it.  I wish I had some time to go into detail here, but that’ll have to be for another post.

As a father, I had some struggles.  This is something I’m actively working on to have a better ’19.  Kids do present challenges, and I wasn’t prepared for a couple of them.

Work was a challenge, but in the end the year turned out better than I could have hoped.

…And that leaves cycling.  I spent a lot of time on my bikes and enjoyed every minute of it.  I went on a few trips, did a long-distance tour or two, and spent the entire summer fit as an ox.

My cycling fitness, starting the first day of the new year, was my top priority.  I started ramping up so I could ride into spring strong on New Year’s Day.  It began with time on the trainer pushing the hardest gears on the bike with the trainer set at its greatest resistance setting.  My plan worked perfectly.

Going into spring I was in great shape.  What is normally a struggle to find my cycling legs was an enjoyable ramping up to speed.  I was able to spend more than my fair share of time up front.

The summer months were spectacular and our Tuesday night B group went from a beginning of the year 21-1/2-mph average to 22+.  By August we were starting to push a 23-mph average for the 29 mile open-road course.

The longer rides were slower, but much more enjoyable last year.  We’d always pushed for a 20-mph average on anything greater than 100-km, but last year we didn’t worry about that as much.  We just had fun as a group and let the speed land where it did.  I had a lot more fun that way.

The final few months of the year were my best ever.  With one of the gang struggling with heart problems and restricted to slower rides, we tossed speed out the window and just enjoyed riding as a group.  They were some of the best, if coldest, miles of the year.

So the wrap-up is definitive; it was done right.  I know this year won’t be as easy to manage as far as miles go.  Work obligations have changed and there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with last year’s pace.  I’ve accepted this and will make do with what I can get.

If I’m lucky enough to become an old man, I’ll look back on my 25th year sober as one of the best, most enjoyable of my life.  I feel blessed to have lived it.

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The Three Most Important Rules of a Career in Construction and the Trades…. Maybe Four.

Show up. If you simply show up on time, you beat 50% of everyone in your field.

Work hard. If you’re willing to work hard, not “the hardest of anyone who has wielded a hammer, just plain old hard, you’ll beat another 40%.

From there it’s just a fight at the top, You’ll always be needed.

Finally, remember this little nugget. Everyone who works hourly thinks management and ownership is easy and the brass is making money hand over fist on the lowly hourly guy’s back. This is because you’re ignorant.

Management is twice as tough as hourly, and ownership is another twice over that. I should know, I’ve done it all. And I stepped back a notch. On purpose.

Don’t believe me?

Strike out on your own and find out for yourself. There’s a general contractor out there willing to finance you… right up till bankruptcy. Then you’ll be on your own. Good luck, and remember how easy it was to make all that money when you’re heading into court. 90% fail. Most spectacularly.

Peter Sagan Rode a Specialized Allez in the Tour Down Under to a Second Place in the Criterium; What Does that Mean to a Mere Mortal?

Peter Sagan rode an alloy Allez at the Tour Down Under in the crit race to a second place finish – he won the race last year.

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So does that mean any of us should be able to show up at the local club ride with an entry-level Allez and hope to ride it to victory?  Well, hold on a second, sparky.  It isn’t quite that simple.

The bike Sagan rode is a long way from what you or I could get without a special order and a lot of cash… the high-end Allez Sprint Comp Disc available from Specialized is a nice, aero alloy frame with a Tarmac fork and a Venge saddle mast.  That much, aside from custom paint, is exactly what Sagan rode – and that’s exactly where the similarities end.

The public version is then fitted with Shimano 105 hydraulic disc components.  Certainly a worthy groupset, but Sagan got Dura Ace Di2.  Sagan also had Roval 60mm deep dish carbon wheels, a $2,500-ish upgrade for we mere mortals.  He also got the ceramic everything bearing upgrade.  Finally, he got his unmarked Zipp stem and S-Works unmarked Aerofly handlebar.

What does all of that mean?  Well, Sagan’s Allez was actually be a little lighter than his Venge when he lined up to start the race.  Only slightly more than 17-1/2 pounds for an alloy bike.  Not bad.  Ours would likely be around 18-1/2 to 19 pounds out of the box (guessing, of course).  Still, not bad for an aluminum bike – and with the greater frame clearance allowing wider tires built into the frame, riding that alloy frame on, say 26 or 28mm tires would actually make it feel reasonably comfortable – and there’s no doubt, as is mentioned in the article, the alloy Allez will be considerably stiffer than a carbon fiber Venge – one of the stiffest carbon fiber frames on the market.

In the end, for $2,200, the Allez Sprint Comp Disc is a legit road bike.  It’s no Venge, but it’ll do – and if you went all weight wienie on it you could get it down to about 17 pounds flat.

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Of course, my Venge only weighs 15-3/4 pounds…

I wonder what Sagan thought of the bike as he took second in the Crit.  Interestingly, it does go to show that you don’t need an ultra-light carbon fiber bike to compete – at least, when you’re a three-time world champion.

I won’t be trading the Venge in any time soon, though.

More P-O-W-E-R! How Much Do You Need for Speed

How much power do you need to average 16-mph? How about 20-mph? What about going big time… 23-mph? How about for a 30-mph+ mile with a bit of a tailwind? Oooh, I’ve got one for you. How’s about a 35-mph sprint finish?

I’ve got the answers, but you’re going to have to adjust for weight… I’m 6′ tall and 172 pounds. I’m not a climber… too fat. 146 watts average. 182 watts average. 254 watts average. 459 watts average. 900-ish peak watts.

So the question becomes how long can you hold that average wattage? The 900 watts, for one of us weekend warriors hurts but not as bad as the 459 watt mile… I puked in my mouth after that. Twice. The rest were all in a pack over 29-ish miles and took 1h:13m to 1h:50m. All verified as “close enough for government work” through friends who do use power meters, and by Strava which manages to guesstimate power pretty accurately.

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A few of the serious cyclists I know train with a power meter, but only a few. Power meters add quite a bit of cost to an already expensive sport and the question I like to ask about the practice, is how necessary is it or would the benefit be worth the money?

I have never felt the need to run out and pick up a power meter for my bike. I’ve been tempted, usually after a tough ride, but I’ve never gone as far as pricing them out or looking at reviews to determine the best. I also don’t race. All of the riding I do is experience related – I ride for the fun of riding, with a bunch of friends.

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I’ve managed to train blind to a point I can contribute in a 23-mph average ride on open roads, the only piece of equipment needed, other than the bike and a couple bottles of water, is a simple cycling computer that shows current speed. The most important thing I needed to bring to the dance was a lot of want to. Speed is all about will. You either have the will to get used to riding fast or you don’t – and most don’t because you have to put up with a lot of self-inflicted pain. Given enough time and mileage, though, the body comes around so the speed isn’t quite so painful.

While that sounds good, there’s a problematic hook to it – eventually I ran out of want to. I can manage 23 just fine – and spend a little more than my fair amount of time up front. I can’t hang with the 25-mph group for more than 20 miles. I simply run out of gas – and the “want to” required to train hard enough to keep up for that extra 2-mph just isn’t there.

Then the question comes down to whether or not a power meter would help. The obvious answer is sure, but do I need to go that far? I don’t think so. I’m fast enough to put a smile on my face, and that’s good enough for government work. In the end, that’s really what is important.

When I stash the Venge in the bike room after another great ride, knowing how hard I pushed on the pedals doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience and the memories I’ll take from cycling.

A power meter won’t improve those… and it appears Strava can do the rest, anyway.

What Happiness is to Me; Or Maybe What It Isn’t.

I think, to get to what my version of happiness is, I first have to get into what it isn’t.  Too often I see mistakes being made in what happiness isn’t.

Being happy, to me, is not the absence of strife, struggle, conflict, hardship, or difficulty.  Baby, that’s life.  Trying to find a life devoid of those things is like chasing a rainbow-farting unicorn… and deciding one can’t be happy until that unicorn is found and befriended.  Good luck, there’s no such thing – they call it mythical for a reason.

Happiness isn’t getting to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  I was five-years-old the last time I truly experienced that pleasure.  Happiness isn’t “easy” living, either; a sober, clean life is anything but easy.

Happiness, to me, is being content with what I’ve got.  It’s being comfortable in my own skin.  Happiness is being grateful for the life I have, or the life that was given me by my Higher Power after I asked for His Grace…  Happiness is doing the best with what I’ve got.

… and when I need a reminder, a bike ride with my wife and friends will do the trick.  Money won’t buy happiness, but it buys bikes, and that’s good enough for government work.

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On Recovery from Addiction; Why I Keep Coming Back to Meetings

I was asked to give a lead-in talk at a treatment center in downtown Flint last night.  At first, because I really didn’t know what to expect (and because my first stint in treatment was at the toughest/worst place in the State – where they only sent hopeless repeat offenders), I wasn’t nervous about what I’d say.  I had an idea, of course, but I vastly underestimated the crowd.  There were maybe 40 men, many hardened criminals… and me.  And the guy who asked me to give the talk, and two of his friends.

26 years ago, I fit in to that crowd a lot better than I do today.

It wasn’t cause to freak out, though.  “Experience, strength and hope”, that’s all I have.

After I was introduced, I got right into it.  I gave a brief overview of what it was like when I got sober, and I kept it to the first few steps.  There was no pandering to the crowd, so I just said what I had to say and ended when I was done.  I didn’t try to stretch it out and I didn’t embellish on anything.  I think I spoke for all of fifteen minutes.  I was supposed to eat up almost 45 minutes.

-gulp-

I really felt like I’d let the fella who invited me down, that I should have had more.  Then he asked if anyone had questions…  The first hand went up, and I answered his question.  Then another, and another.  They were fantastic questions, too.  “Do you ever have urges to drink?”  “How do you deal with those urges?” “Do you think you could have quit without God’s help?””How do you work the steps in the rest of your life?”

Questions filled up the remaining half-hour.  Guys were still asking questions as they were filing out the door.

Folks, I had every chance to completely screw up that lead-in talk.  I could have forced it and tried to stretch another fifteen minutes out of it, but instead just went with my gut.  I said what I had to say and left it where it was still “real”.

I walked out of that meeting feeling better about sobriety than I have in a long time – and that was pretty hard to do, I’m in a very good place of late.  I’m on a 90 day rotation to go back and I can’t wait.  We have a little tradition in “the program”.  When we are asked to give a talk like that, there is only one answer:  “Where’s the meeting and when do you want me there?”

I give every chance I get because I never know when I’ll run into a meeting like I did Monday night.  If one person heard something that will get them to come back, I helped change the course of a person’s life.  I think it went vastly better than that, though.  On my way home I got a text from the guy who invited me;  “Tonight’s meeting was a meeting that reminded me why I keep coming back.  Thanks.”  Funny thing was, I had the same feeling.  That’s how it works.

“Giving back” doesn’t have to be a huge philanthropic effort to make a big difference.  Usually, all it takes is one’s experience, strength, and a little hope.  Oh, and a lot of faith.

My (Un)Pro Bowling Career… A Fantastic Addition to My Cycling Habit

I’ve mentioned my enjoyment of bowling a time or two on the blog but I’ve never gone beyond the odd mention.

Friends, I love me some bowling.

I’ve been on an autumn through winter sober league for going on eighteen years. I’m not great, but I’m absolutely above average. I hold between a 170 and 180 average, my best being 183. Not great, but not bad.

Well, this year I was invited to the bigs as a sub. The Friday night league. I’ve participated six or seven times this year and it hasn’t been pretty. I went from the equivalent of the fun league to a league where a decent average is fifty pins higher than mine.

To illustrate, I’m happy when I get a messenger to shoot across and clip the ten (I’m a leftie) – it’s a cool shot. I saw a guy last night whose revs were so high he was getting a double messenger – one from each side. And on more than half of his strike shots. His worst game was a 233.

So I’ve had a double-whammy problem with Friday night. I don’t put a lot of money into bowling. I have three balls – a sixteen and two fourteen-and-a-half’s. They’re all hand-me-downs I’ve collected over the years. Two were already drilled leftie and just right and I had one filled and drilled for me. I’ve had the same shoes since I started bowling all those years ago…. and therein lies the rub. Those old-@$$ shoes.

They started sticking about six weeks ago, out of nowhere. I’d get four good shots and they’d start sticking (as soon as the soles warmed up). I went from six or eight inches of slide to having to plant my foot, trying not to fall on my face. I’d have good games and really bad games, and God forbid I bowl against someone who dropped the ball before the line, a little oil on my shoe would make it worse.

Well, I was a little slow putting all of this together – it takes a minute to read the post, but it took weeks to figure the order of the clues.

Last Friday I cleaned my shoes and scuffed the leather slide pad, hoping that would cure my ills. It was better, but not near enough. I ordered a new pair of shoes. I finally was going to have to put some money into my other hobby.

They showed up ten minutes before I pulled into the driveway yesterday, and an hour before I had to leave.

My first and second games were a little ugly, trying to get used to being able to slide again… and then I ran into one on the third game. Everything clicked and when I realized I wasn’t thinking about sticking anymore. I went from the 150’s to a 214. I was finally able to run into a few.

Like in everything else, if you want to get better, hang out with people better than you… and keep coming back after you’ve figured out you want to quit because you’re not good enough.

It’s only after that point I get better.