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One Helluva Ride: Out of the Frying Pan.

The weather forecast was weird.  It was supposed to be hot, as is normal for this ride (I’ve never done it with a finishing temp below the upper 80’s – call it 28 C), but remain cloudy for much of the later miles with rain rolling in after 3pm – plenty of time for us to get done and get gone.

For those who follow me on Strava, I track certain rides on my phone because I’ve yet to pick up a Garmin so time gets added to my rides when I’m walking at a rest stop – my app picked up a 19.7 average while my computer showed two tenths more miles (I almost forgot to start the app) and a moving time of 4:55:45, a 20.3-mph average.  Let’s face it, six tenths isn’t much, but 20.3 for 100 miles is a lot sexier than 19.7 – especially when you figure we only had five guys.

Anyway, getting back to what’s important, it shouldn’t be surprising with a name like One Helluva Ride that rolls through Hell, Michigan, we haven’t had much luck in completing the ride.  We’d cut it short the last three or four years – and that’s not a bad thing.  By the time we get to lunch, it’s so miserably hot that when one guy suggests cutting it short, the rest crumble in seconds.

Death by 3% Hills

Not literally dead, like “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, one of the dumbest sentences I’ve ever heard spoken in a commercial.  No, it literally wasn’t.  You’d be dead, sweetheart – and none of our group died because of little, tiny 3% hills.  By the time mile 98 flashed on the computer, though, we’d seen enough.  The point is, there were a lot of little, baby hills and rough pavement that it was torturous on the feet.  If by torturous you mean awesomely painful, yet not really torture, because it’s a bike ride, dude.  In the scheme of things, that’s my kind of torture.

The Winston Wildcard

We had my friend, Winston with us.  He’s about eight inches shorter than me and you would have to sit a 40 lb bag of salt on his lap for him to get an idea of what it’s like to be me, climbing a hill.  He pulled, averaging north of 21 mph, for the first fourteen miles.  When Winston’s riding, it’s gonna be fast.  The dude is freaking strong – and a great guy to be around.  With just five miles to go, I was hurting.  Bad.  I was struggling to stay on at the back and I just wanted to get off my bike.  I was “stick a fork in me” done, so I told my friends I was slipping off the back, that I’d see them soon enough.  Here comes Winston back after me, and he says, “I’m not going to leave you back here with only a few miles to go, now come on… Let’s get it done.”  He pulled me back to Chuck and Mike and the four of us cruised it in – if you can call north of 20-mph “cruising”.

So with that, we set our bikes on the nearby rack and headed over to the watermelon booth, where they served the most delectable watermelon wedges I’ve ever eaten.  Every year, the watermelon at the end is one of the most talked about parts of the ride.  They chill it to a perfect 40-ish degrees, slice it up, and line it up on the table for famished riders to eat.  I had four wedges and almost filled up on watermelon.  Those of you who eat it, know how much you have to eat to “fill up” on watermelon.  It’s a lot, but it’s so good!

There are those scenic rides, like the Northwest Tour, where you want to slow the pace down to look around and take in the beauty of seeing the land from a saddle.  OHOAR isn’t one of those.  There isn’t a lot to look at (though it’s vastly better than the Tee-shirt Ride – woof!).  One Helluva Ride is one of those, “put your head down and let’s hammer this out” rides where you want to see how fast you can get around the 100 mile course, while exploring just how close to heat stroke you can get while doing it.

With today left to run up my weekly mileage total, I’m sitting on 225 miles… Just 14 days into the month, I’m sitting on 583 (that should be close to 640 after today, midway through the month) and, for the year, I’ve already surpassed my total mileage for all of 2012 with 5,388.  Truthfully, this has been one helluva year.  I can say that I’ve had happier moments, obviously, but overall, this has been one great year.  I’m having more fun than politicians would normally allow.  It just isn’t fair for one guy to enjoy life so much, to horde all of that happy.  They’d have to knock me down a few pegs and share some of my happiness with others, you know, to spread the happy.

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Why Exercise is So Important to Recovery in One Simple Concept… and some Experience, Strength, and Hope

I was at a meeting last night and we were talking about the reading from the Daily Reflections that talks about humility, and the loose definition therein as it relates to recovery and the most unlikely old-timer dropped the simplest concept I’ve ever heard as it pertains to recovery. I’ve been trying to boil this down to the simplest common denominator for going on seven years (maybe eight?), and here we are at a small intimate meeting and this fella just nails it.

We have this little catch about expressing what we hear in meetings as it pertains to other members who shall remain anonymous so, other than this simple concept, I’m going to keep this very general. This old-timer was talking about how he likes to go for a walk when life is coming at him fast, because his walk gives him time to disconnect from what’s troubling him and sets him up to work the program at his troubles – which is exactly what we do – we work the program at life’s problems so we don’t have to live in that morass that once had us drunk in a ditch. The point is, I’ll just get right after it:

Exercise puts us in the right frame of mind to work on recovery.

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This, in one simple sentence, gets right at why exercise is so important to recovery for so many – it clears out the cobwebs so we can look at what life gives us in a clearer perspective.

From there, it’s simply an inventory, sharing, amends, and maintenance and we’re working on a solution. Once we’ve made it through, we share our experience, strength and hope that it may help others in their recovery.

And that, in one simple sentence, is why Fit Recovery was born in December of 2011. To pass it on. Pretty neat.

Tuesday Night Club Ride; Wheel Sucking Perspective Edition

It was an odd night for wind. For what is usually the hardest part of the ride, we were going to have a nice tailwind.

The warm-up was an easy 17.7-mph, over seven miles and some change. The temp, in the mid-80’s, was perfect. We had a little wind, but it wasn’t all that bad. The northeast direction of the wind, now that presents a problem or two. Chief among them is the last fifteen miles of the ride being into the wind. That’s no bueno.

We rolled shortly after the A Group left and got right after it. I was second bike with another horse of a guy so we jammed the pace right out of the gate. We were up to 23-mph just after we we hit the first turn… into the wind. We went for a mile and dropped back, maybe fifteen bikes to rejoin the line.

The first third of the ride was fantastic, a big group working together. The second third, not so much…  Gaps, the group breaking apart, only to come back together, guys fighting to be the last bike, etc.  I struggled and spent a ton of time up front, but coming into the intermediate sprint at 20 miles one of the stronger guys came up from the back and urged me to get on his wheel as he went by.  I did and took the City Limits sign with a comfortable gap and 33 mph.  I recovered while everyone caught back up and it was more of the same as we headed north, into the wind.

I was up front a lot because you never know who’s going to drop and when – besides, the draft is actually better up front where everyone is working together than in the back where everyone is jockeying for the worst position.  Still, I can’t help but get a little edgy as I’m wearing down and we’ve got guys screwing the people in the group who are willing to work so they can attempt to stay in the back.

Coming into the final sprint, I was third bike behind two tandems and I thought I was positioned perfectly – right up until that second tandem pulled off a quarter-mile early – which meant I was going to be the lead out.  I hammered the pedals, jumping from a solid 24-mph to 28… I gave it everything I had and arm-flicked out when I was done.  I watched the others ride by, and one of the guys who didn’t take a pull the whole 30 miles come shooting by to take the sprint to the City Limits sign – and it wasn’t who we’d expect, either.  That guy has at least been pulling through the last several weeks.  Nope.

My gut reaction was to cry foul.  What he did was foul – people who suck wheel all ride long, only to pour it on at the sprint in a club ride (in other words, not a freaking race) are lower than a snake’s ass.  It just is what it is*.

I’d gone to the café and eaten, made it home and unpacked and I was still hot about the whole thing.  Then, in the shower, I realized what I’d been doing to myself.  If you’ve read my last couple of recovery posts, I’ve been writing about only worrying about myself, and what I’m doing – and keeping my side of the street clean.

Ooh, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I let the water rinse the soap off.  I did right during the ride.  I worked hard and did my part.  That’s the end of it for me.  If I don’t like the wheel sucking that’s been going on of late, I can always quit riding with the group on Tuesday – or go out on my own after the group leaves…. but let’s be realistic, that ain’t gonna happen.  So that leaves me two options; keep my mouth shut, or nicely point out that the group works better when we all work together.

I’m going to have to sit on it a while because it’s going to be the latter option and I would have a hard time with the “nicely” part.  I’ll have to work on that.

And you thought recovery was just about not using drugs or alcohol anymore.

* I should add, there are certain people who have earned the right to hang in the back and suck some wheel.  They’ve been contributors for decades and they’re slowing a little but they can still hang with the big group if they hide a little bit.  These people get a pass.  Those who don’t are the younger, stronger bucks.  The older guys aren’t entirely exempt either – one in particular last night, left a gap in the right lane in a double pace-line because he “didn’t want to be up front when the hills started” then lamented the fact that others from the left lane didn’t eat wind to fill in the hole he created…

Folks, don’t be that guy.  Ever.  I did let him have the truth, too.

 

Not Dead, and this just might be what Heaven is Like. Happiness this Good isn’t Chance. It’s Choice.

When I was just twenty-one years-old, I was sat in a doctor’s office getting some crazy news. He informed me that, according to my liver enzyme readings I had the liver of a sixty year-old chronic alcoholic and that I would be dead inside a eight years without a radical lifestyle change. It was either quit drinking or…

That wasn’t my “bottom”. I drank for another year before finally seeing the light. Once I did see it, though, I didn’t look back.  I made a deal with God in the middle of DT’s (withdrawal tremors – it isn’t pretty) – and rather unusual, where I would normally start with God’s end of the bargain, I started with my end.  I prayed, “God, I know I’m meant for more than this (in other words, “I know I’ve been a loser in Your eyes for quite a while now”).  I’ll give staying sober everything I’ve got, if You’ll just help me”.  With that, my compulsion to drink was lifted and I set about fixing the flaws in my character that led me to drink.

That last point is fairly important for we recovering folk.  Too many times, people make the mistake of believing it’s just about not drinking or doing drugs, and that’s why those people fail to remain in recovery so frequently.  The key is fixing why we chose to pick up in the first place.

I set about cleaning the wreckage of my past, then fixing the why.  Over two and a half decades I’ve been through a lot.  Some highs and some lows, but that rollercoaster doesn’t look as crazy as it used to.  The peaks and valleys aren’t as pronounced – in cycling terms, my life doesn’t equate to mountain climbs and descents anymore.  It’s more like gentle rollers where the momentum from the last downhill helps propel me up the next little climb.  There’s no coasting in this way of living, of course.  If I coast over the top of one hill, I won’t have the momentum needed to crest the next.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to choosing this path; the manic highs aren’t as high as they once were.  Those highs are sacrificed to raise the lows.  What this means in recovery’s terms is that I put myself in fewer tempting situations.  I loved to drink when I was on those blazing high’s in life – and I drank so I wouldn’t have to feel during those crushing lows.  Eliminate both, and I can work on the stuff in the middle.

This is the choice.  No more peaks and valleys, just nice rollers, and to get there all I had to do was “the next right thing in any situation”.  Not the next right thing for me, or to further my career, or to make my sobriety better…  The next right thing – and that often isn’t the best thing from my own selfish, personal perspective.  And I have to concentrate on my part in everything for this to work.

If I look at where you’re wrong, if I look at where society has wronged me, if I concentrate on politicians or any other distraction, I miss that which is most important:  My part.

And now we get down to the real nuts and bolts.  I am selfish and self-centered.  If I concentrate on anything other than my part in life, I will be miserable because I can’t do anything about other people, places or things.  This is why activists are always so angry, they’re raging against the machine instead of worrying about their own pathetic selves.  They have to fight something…. anything.  And so they do.

No, I have to do better than that, for the sake of my happiness, because a happy me is better for this world than an angry, manic, depressive, drunk me.

In the end, ironically, it is all about me – just not in the way I want.  It’s about a humble, flawed me, just trying to get better and do right.  When I concentrate on that, life feels like Heaven, almost every day I wake up, and that’s as good as it gets.

A Birthday 100k, and a Perfect Day

I readied the bikes and packed them on the car rack long before it was time to leave. It was mercifully cool at the start, 55° (just 13 C) and after our long heat wave, it felt almost chilly. We still started out in short sleeves and shorts as it was due to warm up quick with a perfectly clear sky and barely a breeze.

It was a thin crowd, just Chuck, Phill, my wife and me, but we made a fantastic ride of it. We held a comfortable pace the whole way down to Brighton, where I had a cup of coffee and the pleasure of splitting one of the best sticky buns I’ve ever eaten with my wife at a café. After firing down our treats, we mounted up headed back.

We had a little bit of a cross breeze for some of the ride home but for the most part it was a tailwind for almost 25 miles – if a mild one.

My wife and Phill split off and headed back to the high school parking lot and I rode with Chuck back to his house so I could get some bonus miles and a full 100k because I’m enrolled in this Strava thing for July that tracks how many 100k’s we do in the month… unfortunately, I forgot my phone in the car so I couldn’t track the ride and we were five miles down the road before I’d realized I didn’t have it. I did add it in later, though.

When Mrs. Bgddy and I got home, my oldest daughter had made real, honest to God biscuits and sausage gravy for my birthday breakfast. My favorite breakfast in the whole entire world… and she made everything, including the gravy, from scratch. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest birthday presents I’d ever received.

After breakfast, which was freaking phenomenal, I showered up and we all took a nap. For the afternoon’s entertainment we visited my sponsor who’s recovering in a rehabilitation center after being hit by a truck on a rural highway, helping to remove a roll of padding that had fallen off a carpet truck with a truck driver who’d stopped as well. He had several friends over for pizza and a meeting.

After, we headed home and watched the Tour de France coverage before crashing for the night.

I think I’d have OD’ed on awesome if we tried to fit one more cool thing in there.

Best day ever.

San Francisco crows about raising its Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour… I’m not impressed.

I heard on the radio that San Francisco raised its minimum wage to $15 and that raise was crowed about ad absurdum… as if the great liberal yahoos had done something special.

Most people are gullible enough to think something impressive happened as well. For those, let’s throw some math at this situation.

The median cost of a home in San Francisco is $1,364,000 and some change. That works out to about $8,500 a month for a mortgage… if you put the ten percent down, or $136,400. Figure a couple, both working minimum wage jobs own that median home. That’s 71 hours a week, just for the mortgage, each. No food, no electricity, no car, nothing but the mortgage. 71 hours a week for two working people. Now here’s the fun part: No minimum wage employer will pay the overtime for an employee to work 71 hours a week to cover that mortgage… That couple will have to work two minimum wage jobs. Each.

Now let’s look at my hometown. The minimum wage is $9.25 and the median home costs $134,000. Throw the same math at that… 12 hours a week for both in the couple, working minimum wage jobs.

For San Francisco to be as fair as it is in my hometown, the minimum wage would have to be about $100 an hour.

Now, my math is very rudimentary. I don’t factor in taxes (triple in San Francisco what I pay in my hometown). In other words, the situation is even worse than my simplistic look at it.

Just sayin’, folks. Don’t fall for the narrative. Challenge it.

Recovery from Alcoholism or Addiction is a Daily Reprieve

A blog I follow posts a daily reading from recovery literature and one struck my fancy the other day…

There are a few things I’ve done that have helped me live a sober, happy, wonderful life. One sticks out above all others, though…

If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.

~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, More About Alcoholism, pg. 33~

I take the notion of hope for immunity to another level. Not only can I never achieve immunity, I can’t even hope for decency, happiness, or anything that remotely looks like success if I decide to consume alcohol.

If I take a drink, I’m cooked. Done. Stick a fork in me.

I will give up everything that is good in my life, in a matter of months, to stay drunk. Alcohol won’t take anything from me, by the way, dears. This is a program of honesty. I will give it all away. Freely. My health will follow, shortly thereafter, because if we know anything about alcoholism and drug addiction, it’s that the disease is progressive. It doesn’t take time off, it just lurks in the shadows for an opportunity to wreak havoc.

I am evil when I drink, so every morning I wake up and thank God for my daily reprieve from alcoholism… and for helping me to remember just how bad I was before I quit. I have done this 9,360 times, and with a little grace and another daily reprieve, today will be 9,361.

I also remember that which is second-most important; I can have all of that misery back, if I miss it. All I have to do is take a drink.

The lesson for the day; don’t fuckin’ drink, even if your ass falls off. Put it in a plastic bag and take it to a meeting. Someone will be able to show you how they put theirs back on.