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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.

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.

Relentless Positive Attitude

Paul W. Smith, a local radio personality, likes to add in his daily broadcast, based on an interview from years ago, the phrase “relentless positive mental attitude”.  I have used that phrase for decades, simplified by one word, since I sobered up.  I just couldn’t put a simple phrase to it until I heard it….

A potent secret to my success is a relentless positive attitude.

Rather than look at things negatively, even when “bad” things happen, I look for ways to add “good” to the situation rather than detract from it.  How can I improve things rather than make them worse?  This is relentless positive attitude.

This isn’t to say we’re always smiling and chipper – that would be near impossible.  On the other hand, the only way I know to be smiling and chipper most of the time is to pursue a positive attitude relentlessly.

I can have happiness or anguish – it’s all how I choose to look at life.  Even when life sucks just a little bit.

Reasons I Love Recovery – Part One

Being an active member of the recovery community has one benefit, beyond the obvious (not dying, not being in a psych ward, or in prison); I am part of group of survivors.

We have survived a seemly impossible disease. Many will say the this disease “takes everything” good in life from us, but I believe that is too kind. I gave everything to be drunk. Some would call it semantics, but not me. I believe in taking ownership of my disease.

We who recover are a part of a community who have seen hell on earth and have come out on the other side to tell the tale. We are a part of something bigger than our own self. Better than.

And this is why so many of us are happy. For us, just to be on the right side of the grass, pumping air and happy, is like winning the lotto every day.

It’s the daily four lotto, not the big one, but you get the idea.

Begging God to help me get sober was the best thing that I ever did. All things good in my life are a result of that one minute.

I love my sober life.

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.