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TNIL: Very, Very Fantastic, Fun and Fast Edition

I’d been looking forward to a Tuesday like this all summer long. Three came close, but last night was perfect. If the wind was more than 2-mph I’d be shocked. There were a few clouds in the sky, but gloriously sunny otherwise… and the temp, at 81 (27 C), couldn’t have been better.

And I forgot my helmet at home. Doh! I always check that I have my helmet, shoes and sunglasses before I leave the driveway but I was, erm, distracted by my wife with a really good kiss and simply wasn’t thinking right as I headed out.

I realized what I’d done about four miles from the church. I called my wife, who tossed the helmet in her car and headed my way… I turned my car around and met her halfway. I rolled into the parking lot a few minutes late for the warm-up but I’d called Chucker and let him know I’d be late. Five were waiting when I got there.

I quickly got ready and we rolled out.

We started slow but built up speed as we went… from 16-mph till we were cruising at 22. The warm-up went quick and Chucker spit off for a couple of extra miles while Dale and I headed back to get ready for the start.

As has been the perplexing norm, and this was surprising on the single best Tuesday night of the year, we didn’t have a big enough group to scrape separate A Elite and A groups so we rolled out together. Unlike previous editions, I noticed right away that we had one of ours paired up with almost every elite rider. That had a cooling affect on the pace. The only problem I ran into was being stuck behind Jared… he’s shorter and astonishingly fit so for a 6′ tall cyclist who hasn’t missed a meal in quite a while, it’s like trying to draft behind fettuccini. I’d get to three bikes back and start heading toward the red line. By the time I got up front I was already spent. This went on for a few cycles but I saw an opportunity… Craig pulled out of the line and Jared went over to talk to him just short of a stop sign. I took the opportunity to jump up a place and get behind James. At 6’1, and a fella who likes to ride upright, it was like drafting behind a battleship by comparison. I stopped hitting the red line till I was up front and the whole outlook of the ride changed immediately. Dave was on a vintage Assenmacher that he’d sent to California to be painted by a nationally renowned painter and I was amazed that he lasted as long as he did with the main group on a bike with down tube shifters.

We were pushing a 24-mph average (38 kmh) as we approached the hills, sixteen miles into the ride. Chuck wanted to pull out of the main group rather than have the elite guys crank it up (which they always do, and had said before we left that they would again) and drop us. Three others went with us – Dave had peeled off, I found out after reviewing Strava afterward. We were sitting on a 23.5-mph average when we split off.

As we headed back the way we came, Chuck suggested taking it easy – around 20-mph – up a climb we normally hit at about 22. This is followed by a quick downhill section into town we normally do around 30, but kept a lid at 27 to preserve a little for the final push home. Through town and heading north our average had fallen to 23.1. I wanted to best a 23 at the finish. I wanted it bad.

A photo from a different day…

With eight miles to go I shouted up to Chuck to try to keep it above 23… and everyone responded well. We pounded out those last eight miles and took that average up to 23.2 as we crossed the City Limits line (I had a 23.1 on my Garmin but Chuck had a 23.2, so we’re going with that).

I reset my computer and shifted to the baby ring… spent. It was all smiles and fist bumps as we headed back to the parking lot, the sun getting low on the best Tuesday weather we’d had all year.

That was my fastest Tuesday night of the year, too. I was beaming all night from that ride. It was perfect all the way around. The elite guys had a blast (a couple of comments on Strava and a couple of texts back and forth informed me of their thoughts), we A guys had a fantastic ride – Todd put it best in a text; it’s all about the brotherhood when we’re out there. He was right.

I slept like a baby last night.

Join Us For The 42nd Annual Assenmacher 100!

Mary Crapo (Pronounced Kraypo) Bldg, 8197 Miller Rd, Swartz Creek, MI 48473 (Details Here)

Sunday, August 15, 2021 – Day of registration opens at 7am sharp (and not a minute earlier) or pre-register (here)

Wheels roll at 8am

Do you have what it takes to hang with the Affable Hammers? If you have advanced group riding skills, there’s only one way to find out! The Elite Group will roll early, be in the parking lot and ready to roll by 7:30. The A Group will roll between 8:01 & 8:04 am. Look for the men and women in the red or black jerseys that say “Affable Hammers”:

The Elite Group will finish the 100-mile route at an average pace of 23-25-mph, figure between 4h:10m and 4:20m. The A Group, will be between 20 & 22-mph, 4:40 to 5:00. That’s around 38 km/h and 34 km/h respectively for those who speak Moose Latin. The Elites stop twice, the A Group stops four times. Please have advanced group riding skills to attempt riding with either group. Riding in a pack of 30 people at 20 to 30-mph is no place to learn how to ride in a group and riding like that is astonishingly dangerous. If you don’t know what you’re doing you can hurt yourself or someone else catastrophically. There will be plenty of other people to ride with who will be riding at a more reasonable pace.

The Assenmacher 100 is a great route for a personal best for whichever route you choose as you’ve got, at worst, flat to gentle rolling hill conditions. The volunteers are all fantastic and the rest stops are always well-stocked with everything you’ll need to finish the ride with a smile… or if you’re riding with us, your tongue dangling precariously close to your spokes. Heh.

We’ll have an outdoor after-party with coney dogs, chips and soda (pop), so come out and ride with friends – or meet some new ones!

The A-100K Pre-ride Is In The Books; Good Times and Bike Salad… Er Somethin’

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again! We’re into August and with the 1st falling on a Sunday, that means we’re only two weeks out from the Assenmacher 100 (more on that later). Every year, for those who can’t ride on the day of the ride, for volunteers and people who will be out of town, and to check that the roads are properly marked and we didn’t have any new construction projects pop up that have to be routed around, we take to the streets to ride the 100k and 100-mile routes.

The weather was very nice for a long day in the saddle. We’d had rain the night before but everything was dry and the temperature cool for the start – almost arm-warmer weather. Mike met me at my house and we rolled to pick up Chucker and head to the start for some bonus miles. The pace was relaxed and we talked the whole way. About a mile left and a big cargo van passed us, Jarred was in the passenger seat of Craig’s van… and Jesse was going to meet us there… and we were picking up Todd and Greg on the road. That meant at least five A Elite riders – and a sixth pulled into the lot just before we were about to leave. The Elite guys are a funny bunch. They play nice with we normal A riders, right up until someone attacks or half-wheels one of them. From that point on, you almost just have to let them go because the group ride becomes a competition to drop everyone else, instantly.

That didn’t happen yesterday, though.

We rolled out of the parking lot at a decent pace and it slowly ratcheted up until we had a gap between the upper-tier riders and we normal folk. They dialed it back, though, and I helped to bring the two groups back together. After that, we established a bit of a max pace and the ride smoothed out.

The roads are in fantastic shape this year and even though the pace was a little hot into the headwind, the ride was social and fun. We had to battle quite a bit of headwind, especially of the crossing variety with wind’s steady at 8 to 10-mph. The Elite guys would take miles at a time up front while we normal folk stuck to a mile or less so we didn’t burn ourselves out.

With the slow roll over, we’d worked our average all the way up to 19.5 by the time we were getting to the home stretch. Two of the Elite guys dropped to head home and the other four took off with one of ours because they were getting a little long as well. That left six of us to fend for ourselves for the last, say twelve miles.

With the exception of the Lennon City Limits sign, we kept the pace steady and moderate. We didn’t add to that 19.5 but we didn’t lose any, either. Without the slow roll, my wife’s Garmin showed a 19.9 average. Not bad for a Sunday ride.

I always wonder how much fun the Elite guys have riding with us but the texts and comments on Strava put any worries to rest. Chuck, Mike and I rolled home… easy, but not too easy. I pulled into the driveway with 76 miles and change. I wanted three things: A shower, lunch, and a nap. In that order. And that’s exactly what I got.

The Best Outcome For a Tragic Death; Friends Come Together

We said goodbye to our friend, son, uncle, brother, cycling buddy and top-notch mechanic yesterday in one of the most fitting homecomings I’d ever seen. Sean was even a friend and cycling buddy of the pastor who led the proceeding. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place and half of everyone who rides on Tuesday night was there. The bike shop closed, with “Closed Saturday for our friend, Sean” on the billboard. All of the long-time employees were there.

And we sent our friend home.

The funeral procession to the cemetery was massive – it took several minutes for everyone to park… best, when the owner of the funeral home announced the end of the service after some final words… nobody left. Not one person went to their car to leave. We stood around, out in the sunshine talking about Sean and the good times we’d had together. We hugged his parents, brothers and nephews. We talked about things to come and rides we’d take in his memory. And we tried to figure out how in God’s name we’d keep our bikes quiet and on the road without Sean.

We planned out this morning’s ride, too, and it looks like we’ve got great weather and a big crowd planning on showing up.

A friend said, it’s these sudden deaths that are hard to deal with, that hurt the most. When we can see it coming, we’ve got time to get ready, to prepare ourselves for it. He was right, but we’ll grow stronger and closer as a group because of it. I can see the gears already turning.

I spent the rest of my day doing normal Saturday chores. I tended to the grass while my wife and daughters watched over one of our cycling buddy’s kids while they went out to lunch – a rare date day for them after the funeral (they have four kids between one & six years-old). Then my wife and I went out to dinner as our daughters scattered with the wind. We talked about things to come with our kids – the hope and landmines ahead. In a classic struggle between good and evil, sadly our daughters have our genes. They’re exceedingly smart, and if they even look at drugs or alcohol, they’re cooked.

While there’s no doubt life is precarious, I wonder if that’s partly what makes living the good life so fantastic. Do you think, maybe?

Enough with the questions. It’s time to ride, baby. Today it is good to be me.

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

As this post publishes, we’ll be rolling out for a short morning ride along a favorite route. We’ll likely talk about the friend we lost last weekend. He was an organ donor and the nature of his crash meant all of the important organs were still viable. He saved several people’s lives. Lungs, kidneys, liver, heart… they were able to use it all. He received a hero’s walk at the hospital the other day.

One immense, sad tragedy made the lives of several people much, much brighter.

We went to the viewing service last night, my wife, daughters and I, to be there for our friend, McMike and his wife. It was undeniably sad, but it was impressive to see all of the cyclists who showed up and in the end, it was as it should be; a celebration of life.

We’ll ride this morning then head to the funeral home, then the cemetery to see our friend laid to rest. It’s going to suck, especially for his parents, but they’ll have a bunch of friends and family there to help them through this.

And tomorrow life will go on. Sometimes it really sucks, but the world will spin on.

With that, I’m trying to use this as a stepping stone for my daughters, an example of how fickle and short life can be. Sean was just 43. The lesson is to enjoy every minute you can on the right side of the grass.

In those last few seconds as my life flashes before my eyes, I don’t want there to be one “I wish I would have” in there… and I want for that flash to feel like it goes on for about 20 minutes.

TNIL: Found Out What Happens When You Take Two Weeks Off and Eat Too Much During That Vacation Edition

“I came back from vacation without missing a beat”, I thought as I rolled out for the warm-up last evening. Monday’s easy ride did some good after Sunday’s hundred and I was feeling good. The warm-up loop was excellent.

We had a sparse turnout for the A group so we rolled out with the A Elites. Oh, yippee. On the positive side, the weather was absolutely perfect for this. Barely a breeze, sunny and low 80s for a temp (27 C) The ride was great while we all caught up in the first mile but the instant one elite guy half-wheeled another, it was all over and any promise of a mellowed 22-mph ‘club’ ride went out the window in a hurry. I hung on as long as I had the want to but I ended up sitting up and waiting for the tandem and several others who were spit off the back before me.

The tandem never showed, they’d turned for a wise shortcut. Winston and I waited for Clark, Dave and a guy Winston knew who had joined us… on his mountain bike. At this point in the ride we’d been pushing a 24-mph average… and the dude was on a mountain bike.

Winston, Clark, Dave, MTB guy and I rolled out and kept the average around 21-1/2 for quite a while but I started fading with about eight miles left. With five miles left I was suffering. Three miles to go, out of 33, and I was “stick a fork in me” done. I had nothing left.

I did fine on the hundred miler Sunday but Tuesday night was too much. On the plus-side, once I was home, showered and had eaten, I fell asleep almost instantly. I didn’t move last night except to wake up in the morning. It’s about time I ran into a salad or two. I had a little too much fun with food on vacation.

Reason #1 That I Ride A Bike; I Can Work Out Anything In 20 Miles (More, Much, Or Less)

That’s right, my friends. Numero uno. Not 1,621 or some made-up number… The Big Kahuna.

I’ve alluded to a major problem over the last couple of days but wasn’t ready to write about it. A friend of our local cycling community, a friend of mine and many around here, and the top shop mechanic most responsible for keeping the high-end bikes quiet and on the road passed away Saturday night after crashing his car through a roundabout in the wee hours of the morning after a volleyball match/tournament a couple of nights earlier. The hard thing to cope with is his parents. I am much tighter with his dad than I was with him and I’ve got quite a few friends who read my blog so… it can be messy writing about something like this. His dad is an A Elite rider and we’ve turned quite a few weekend miles together and the thought of his loss is crushing.

Our friend was in his early 40s and about a mile from home at the time of his crash. Sometimes it’s gone, that fast, and it just sucks.

And so there I was last night. Chuck is in Utah testing a new truck, so I was on my own. It was unbelievably hot, sunny and with only a mild breeze from the west, it was going to be gnarly. Extra-gnarly after my hundred the day before. With Tuesday Night looming, I knew exactly what I needed; a nice, easy ride to get my legs stretched out for tomorrow. I chose the Trek, hoping I’d be able to work out a shifting issue from the other day.

I rolled out on my usual route and simply took it easy, enjoying the 90 degree (30 C) heat and sunshine (I really do like it – I’m weird that way). I’d developed a mysterious shifting issue on the Trek that I desperately wanted to figure out (it’s been driving me a little crazy – big ring is fine, shifts in all gears, everything is great – little ring, any more than 300 watts and I drop the chain… and that can hurt when you’re laying down some decent wattage on the way up a hill).

For the first eight miles, it was just me, my bike, the road and the sun… and my thoughts. Into the breeze and up a short little hill, I decided to shift into the small ring and get out of the saddle. Nothing – perfectly normal. Still in the breeze, I switched my thinking back to my friend. I tried to wrap my head around the crash and I just couldn’t. That’s when I started thinking about how grateful I am to be a part of our rabble of cyclists. That produced the proper line of thinking; “Just enjoy it while you’ve got it, Jim. This only ever ends in a casket. Slide into it in a cloud of dust, exclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!” That’s the goal.

And that’s precisely when I made peace with it.

After the headwind, I turned into a subdivision and shifted to the little ring to climb a dinky hill. Bam, dropped the chain immediately. I replaced the chain and continued on… and about a quarter-mile later I noticed the chain skip on the cassette. Just a faint click and a resetting of the chain. I shifted up and down the cassette – no noise, hit every gear, so I pedaled on. The one truth in mechanical sleuthing was ever thus; if you can’t figure it out or locate the issue, keep going. It will get worse.

I relaxed into my ride and switched to the big ring. Sure enough, every 30 seconds, if I shifted my weight just right, the chain would reset. I pulled over to the side of the road, in the grass, and flipped my bike upside down and pedaled… click, click, click. Upside down I could see the chain jump.

Two full turns on the barrel adjuster before the click faded into a beautiful whir… another turn and it was clicking again. I backed it off of that last turn, then fine-tuned it. On the road again and down into the small ring, a slight adjustment to the front cable tensioner, and butter. Out of the saddle, full power, it’s all good. How the barrel adjuster moved that much on the trip down south after I had it perfectly dialed in for months, I could rack my brain for hours trying to figure it out.

I could have done the Homer Simpson, “Doh” and slapped my forehead, but I was just glad to get it figured out easily and simply. I went for three years having to have the tension dialed in within a 16th of a turn for the derailleur to hit all of the gears 90% of the time… with a new derailleur, chain and cassette the shifting works so well I’ve got three turns of play on the rear derailleur and it’ll still shift right – I can only look as that as a win. The rest, I’ll work out in the wash.

And that brought me back, full circle to the driveway. I pulled in with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. 19.75 miles and I went from being torn up over my friend’s passing and the pain his parents are going through, to being grateful for the time and friends I’ve got. I love being on the right side of the grass – and that’s as it should be.

I can figure out anything on a bicycle, in 20 miles or less. More (much), or less. Number one on the long list of why I love my bikes.

Coming Back After Two Weeks Off A Bike In Style

My wife and kids and I were on vacation in Tiger, Georgia for the last two weeks. Normally, we ride almost every day when we’re down there. This year, we had rain every stinkin’ day and night. The real trick is the timing of the rain. The route we like is tree-covered, with a lot of up and more twists and turns than an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Rain makes the route absolutely treacherous and the tree-cover means it won’t dry out. We managed to ride twice in two weeks.

We arrived home late Saturday night with a favorite annual summer ride scheduled for Sunday morning. A 100-mile annual summer ride.

I was pretty sure one of two things was going to happen: 1. My tongue was going to be dangling precariously close to my spokes by mile 50. Or 2. I was going to be Frankie Fresh Legs and kill it. I had doubts it would be the latter. How could someone possibly miss two weeks and come back to a hundred-mile slog in perfect blue skies, a minor breeze and 91 degree weather (31 C)?

I didn’t get to sleep till 11 Saturday and I had to be rolling out the driveway, bike in car, at 7 am so I could have enough time to get ready. I slept great, though, and till almost 5 am. A couple of cups of coffee and I was ready to prep my bike, shower and get ready. I loaded Mrs. Bgddy’s bike on the bike rack for her vehicle (we drove separately so she could take her time and so she could ride a shorter route if she wanted).

made it to our friend’s house at around 7:30. I took my time getting ready. My wife showed up just in time, got ready and we rolled out.

The weather report on Friday showed Sunday to be a washout. Thankfully, Saturday was the bad day and Sunday turned out to be glorious. I had the Venge and as I settled in after five miles, I was feeling quite good. A little to soon for judgement, but I was encouraged. And it just got better from there. We were into the wind or with a crosswind so pulls were fairly short, especially while we were in a double pace-line. That all changed at our first stop, about 35 miles in. The 100k group split from the 100-mile group and we lost about half of the group.

We singled up at that point and hammered for our lunch stop at 57 miles.

At 55-miles I was feeling surprisingly great. I was Frankie Fresh Legs. For lunch our hands were a little tied. The local Subway was closed so we were stuck with McDonald’s. After lunch we took a few miles to work up to pace again and the miles ticked by until we hit the tailwind section home and things really heated up. After 90 miles I could feel my energy level drop. Things started hurting and the ride became a struggle. One of our group started cramping so he dropped off the back to soft pedal home and another was starting to flag. I was ready to take it to the barn but a couple in the group wanted to do a two-mile jog to make up for some lost miles in the middle of the ride that were sacrificed for smoother asphalt. Mike took his toy and went home but the five of us remaining made the turn for the extra miles.

Best I can say is I hung in and got my miles. I stopped my Garmin in the driveway at 100.56 miles at a pace of 19.2-mph. 5:16 and change in moving time.

So here I am, Monday morning and I’m a little sore but a lot better than I expected. I’d say the time off did a lot of good and not much harm… I don’t plan on making a habit out of time off the bike, though.

Taking Some Time Off the Bike – Needed Maybe, Not Wanted

We’re in the midst of the rainiest weather I’ve ever seen in my lifetime… and the roads we’ve got to choose from are far too dangerous to ride in the rain. I’ve ridden once in the last week and a couple days.

I miss my bike but have more than kept busy, though nothing Strava-worthy.

Today is a total washout but tomorrow looks quite promising. In the meantime, I remain thankful to be on the ride side of the grass, pumping air… and am looking forward to stretching my legs when the latest deluge is done – I’ve got a 100-miler coming up Sunday. Out of the frying pan, as they say.

We Interrupt this Awesome Life for A Lot More Awesome; A Recovery Tale for Everyone

The only sure constant besides death and taxes is, life with throw curveballs at you as long as you’re on the right side of the grass. Since I sobered up in ’92, I’ve dodged more proverbial landmines than I could possibly begin to list. The main difference between when I was a much younger lad pre-recovery and today is that I used to step on them back then.

Sad truth is, I simply made poor choices when I was drinking – and my bad choices on top of bad choices had a tendency to compound, as one would imagine they would. I’m here to tell you, I don’t think I could have amounted to as much as I did without the guidance of Alcoholics Anonymous. While it isn’t for everyone (well, technically it is for anyone, but I feel obligated to say it isn’t for those who choose a different path – and I have no opinion on the choice to go a different way – I wouldn’t, but what I would and wouldn’t do is about as consequential as bat shit), AA offered a path to correcting more than just the booze-related problems. It is often said, you can sober up a horse thief, but what’s left is still a horse thief.

In AA lies the ability to fix the “horse thief” stuff. In fact, we believe it’s the outlying issues that drove/drive us to drink in the first place. Another way to look at it is like this; take someone who used to be an angry drunk. If they’re not a drunk anymore, what’s left? Angry.

And so it was, I set about a path to fix me. Not the world around me, but me. And this has paid dividends upon compound interest. I’d never say I’m to a land of unicorns and rainbows, but freedom and happiness sure feel good after hell on earth.

While one could poke holes all day long into my theories on and understanding of happiness (and I have people who literally do poke at me for weaknesses, simply because they can’t stand seeing someone else being happy with acceptance of life on life’s terms) you’ll wear yourself out trying because my enjoyment of life and recovery doesn’t depend on the believing of others it’s worked.

And so it is with recovery. Have a little compound awesome for yourself. It’s there for anyone who wants to work for it. And it’s sweet.