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I Rode đź’Ż Miles. Again. Day 2 of DALMAC

Day one was a story of fighting headwind for the majority of 100 miles. Thankfully, we weren’t talking about double digit wind. We also had a great group.

We had a better, bigger group for Friday, Day 2. And a tailwind. And a tandem piloted by an astonishing team. And several key pieces of a local masters pro team. I $#!+ you not.

There was no warm-up. No “hey, how ya doin’” phase. We rolled to the first intersection, got through the stop sign on a terribly dangerous intersection and hit it. There was zero letup for 32 miles. We were holding a 22-1/2-mph average by the time we stopped. I’d had to pee for about seven miles, but there was no way I was going to leave that draft go. For the first 12 miles I was about fifth bike back. For years, I’ve taken it upon myself to take the action shots for the group. I figure everyone would like to have a photo they can put on their desk or on the wall of them knocking the miles down on these adventures. I went up to the front and congratulated the tandem on an amazing lead out, then patted the girl on the back in second position who’d been there since we left, then I headed back to take a photo of our pace-line. It was long. I headed back up to take my spot at fourth bike and we rolled on. The couple up front on the tandem, though exceptional, was a (non-married) couple on a tandem. They were fast on the flats and downhills, but mercifully slow on the ups. That’s where we got our breaks.

Another half-dozen miles in, I took another series of photos. This time, one of each individual cyclist as I went up the line (at least the people I knew), ending at the masters pro who had been taking regular turns up front to give the tandem a break from time to time. I was gassed by the time I got to the front so I eased myself to the back of the train for a good rest.

We stopped for the first time at 32-miles at a small trailhead that had a couple of portable restrooms. I made a bee-line. A snack and some laughs later and we were on the road again. Lunch was in 12 miles. We hung on with the tandem and pros until the lunch stop. They’d already had their snacks at our stop but we’d been waiting for the lunch stop. As we pulled to the side of the road, they sped off in the distance. Mile 44-ish. As I walked up to get into the food line, I tried to channel the thought process that had me thinking, “wow, I can’t believe we’re almost halfway already”. It didn’t work. The second day is always the hardest and starting out that fast didn’t help.

After the lunch stop, without our train to draft, we set out on our own, our normal group of six, plus one. The pace cooled a little bit, but definitely in an enjoyable manner. I’m all for the fast rides, but staying within my wheelhouse makes for enjoyable centuries. Over the next 55 miles, our pace dropped from 22 to 20.5 where it stayed.

Toward the end of the day, around mile 80, the hills were a struggle to climb – and there were lots. Day Two has the most elevation gain of the four.

We pulled into a grocery store/restaurant shortly after mile 80 and I purchased a Starbucks Triple Shot French Vanilla. With 225 mg of caffiene, it quickly became my new “go to” caffinated beverage. After pounding one of those, the next 20 miles weren’t near as bad… till that dreaded last two miles where it seems everyhting is uphill, all the way home. I wanted to lay down in a ditch and take a nap, but the group trundled on, and so did I.

We ended up with 101 miles and some change and I was filled with a sense of satisfaction after that century. I had to dig deep a few times to get through that one. Unfortunately, our stretch of good weather was about to come to a close… Day Three’s forecast was not looking good…

I Rode 100 Miles… Day 1 of DALMAC

Not “if”, I did. Again. There was a difference in this century, though. A very special difference.

It was the first time I was ever bummed to see 40 miles go by and think, we’re almost halfway there… already. 60 miles tick by…. “I can’t believe it’s almost over!”

Then, when 80 went by, all I could think was, “I can’t believe how good I feel”… I was really bummed, then.

At 85 miles I had a Starbucks Triple Shot. A Double Shot is awesome enough, but a triple?

The next 8-1/2 miles were fast and spectacular. I could have pushed the pace a little bit. I wasn’t dancing on the pedals, but close to it.

At 99.3 I was ready to be done. A mile later, we were. We had a mild headwind for the majority of the ride, but we had a solid group and we crushed it.

One of the most enjoyable centuries I can remember. You can see below, with the temp in the low 70s, they just don’t make days better than that for a bike ride. And that triple? Rather than shower and crash, I set up the camper while my wife went out for a ride of her own. I didn’t even bother with a nap after I did shower.

I’ll have some more of that, please!

What a day!

377 Miles in Four Days, Another Fantastic DALMAC is in the History Books

We rode DALMAC this weekend, the 50th iteration (the jersey, which I bought, is outstanding).

I’ll start on a better write-up tonight now that I’ve got some time to give the post my proper exuberance. For now, I’ll simply say it was great to feel a little normalcy and crank out three full centuries and a 75-miler with some good friends.

We even had a couple of friends ride home with us, so the good times and great conversation didn’t end till we pulled into the driveway.

What an epic weekend.

It was a time for reflecting on how fortunate and blessed I am. From my wonderful wife, to my good friends, and for the beautiful state we live in.

Most of all, for my recovery. Without that, good times simply aren’t possible. For that, I am most grateful.

More later. I have to get ready to go ride with my friends again now that we’re home! I get to see if I just fixed my shifting issue on my Trek. Fingers crossed!

Thursday: 100.6 miles 18.8-mph avg (headwind almost all day)

Friday: 101.4 miles 20.2-mph avg (winds a little more favorable and a blistering start on the wheel of a stellar tandem)

Saturday 100.2 miles 19.5-mph avg. We had a 20 avg going into the big climbs at mile 90 but if you gun the 2 mile climb to the wall, you’re sure to blow up when you start up it. 19.5 on this day is very fast.

Sunday 75.35 miles 18.5-mph avg. The first half of this ride is very climby and always a bit of a parade lap – especially through Harbor Springs . It picks up after lunch!

Cycling and When You’re Stronger Than You Think You Are…

I’ve felt a little chubby since I got back from vacation, mainly because, while I may not actually be “chubby”, I’m about 10 pounds over my normal “acceptable” weight. I got this way in spite of putting in 6,000 miles on my bikes so far this summer. It’s all eating weight.

I was prepared to struggle mightily due to the extra weight. I’ve even taken to eating salads, for God’s sake.

I was wrong, though. I haven’t struggled for the extra weight near as much as I thought I would. Especially on long rides. Even hills haven’t been too terrible – and downhill has been awesome.

I’ve changed my focus, especially on long rides with friends. When I’m starting to struggle, I do a few special things that have made a huge difference.

  1. I think about how my friends need me, that I can’t feel bad yet… I have to finish strong to help them. This has been the biggest game changer over the last year.
  2. Starbuck’s Triple Shot. French Vanilla. Coke and coffee are great, but when I’m in the pain cave, when I’m really hurting, drastic times, drastic measures. It’s good for the last 23-ish miles of a hard century. You have 26 left? Well, you’ll have to dig deep on that last couple of miles.
  3. Gels, food, moderation… I used to eat way too much at stops. Getting started again was sluggish. If I avoid the urge to eat everything in sight, I’m much better for it.

Finally, as the year has progressed, I’ve realized I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Still, I’m definitely sticking to a diet coming into the end of the season. I’m planning on dropping some decent weight over the winter so I can keep the leg strength and hit next spring lighter.

Cycling long distances, 50 to 100-ish miles, is as much mental as it is physical. If I maintain the former, the latter falls into line.

Ride hard, my friends. Because it’s fun.

Another 1,000 Mile Month in the Books

Every winter I set a goal for 6,000 miles for the new year.

July was an off month with only 625 miles. I was on vacation for two weeks and we didn’t ride much. In fact, July was a bit slow, historically, too. 977 miles for July. May was quite good, though, with 1077 miles on the legs. April’s iffy weather is never good for cycling but I did manage a decent 677 miles for the month. I logged 577 in March – historically decent.

So that gets the spring and much of the summer covered, leaving August. What a month. 1,053 miles and the fastest Tuesday night in Lennon for the year on the 31st. I only took two days off all month long, one for my daughter’s move-in at college and one, I think, for weather. I averaged more than 36 miles a day at an average pace of around 18-1/2-mph.

I shoehorned in the cycling around obligations and the month couldn’t have gone better (This isn’t to say everything was perfect, of course – I don’t care about perfect, I care about good, decent and happy. I don’t do perfect).

Best, August was a month of friends, family and fantastic memories I’ll have when they count.

Good times and noodle salad, my friends. Ride hard.

A Paradox in the Recovery; You Want to Go Off On Someone, BUT…

I’ve had it up to here with COVID panic p0rn lately. Especially unnerving are the folks who make stuff up, like “reports that kids are immune to getting COVID were greatly exaggerated”… I can’t think of anyone anywhere who said that – and if there actually was someone, they were obviously stupid. Kids aren’t affected like older folks are and everyone with half a brain knows this. I actually read an article the other day that suggested the only reason there wasn’t a megadeath of kids is that they were kept home last year. This person predicted, with kids back in school, we’d be stacking dead kids “like cordwood”. Preposterous!

On the other hand, I went to a fantastic meeting last night, and as much as I want to channel that pissed off guy in a post, he simply won’t come out to play.

And that’s a good thing. The guy who goes off on people is an @$$hole, anyway.

Meetings, if done right, will wreck your inner @$$hole eventually. It happens to the best of us. It’s a great paradox of recovery. Er somethin’.

TNIL: WHAT A RIDE! Edition

Friends, I wish I could put to words how good I feel at this very moment, just 30 minutes or so after crossing the City Limits line capping, with an exclamation point, a tremendously fast ride. I’m still smiling.…

We rolled out at 6:01 to less than stellar wind conditions out of the northeast. This means two roads on the ride have a fair tailwind. The rest of the course socks you right in the kisser.

We had a solid group, though. The Elite guys wanted to play nice… and we in the A Group weren’t enough to go it alone. The offer of help with the wind was too attractive to pass up.

The start was easy, smooth, and quickly ratcheted up to speeds that had me questioning the authenticity of the Elite Group’s offer… but I settled in and hammered on. We were flying into a steady headwind, 26+ mph.

I took my lumps up front and thankfully drew another A guy in the other lane of the double pace-line so our turns up front was mercifully short. I also managed to avoid riding behind a couple of the guys who are tough to hide behind. Once I’d settled into the pace, which, I $#!+ you not, was insane, I was able to get into it. I want to write, I “relaxed” into it, but that’s a wild mischaracterization… there was no relaxing happening in that group. We were staying between 25 & 28-mph (40 to 46 kph).

Then we hit Shipman Road and things really got fast. A few times a year we are gifted a northeasterly wind which makes everything except Shipman Road suck. The whole stretch we’re on that road, all five miles of it, are flat-out fast with a tailwind. It was a new PR for me last night. Five miles in 11m:18s. That’s almost 27-mph… we touched 30-mph a few times… on flat to slightly uphill road. In fact, the profile of that five miles is slightly uphill for all but a few hundred yards till the last half-mile.

There once was a time 28-mph would blow me up after a half-mile. We held that for five.

After crossing a busy intersection and with a crossing tailwind, we flew south to our rendezvous with the hills. I was certain I’d be off the back and blown up. But I was mistaken. Chucker and I had taken a pull just before the triple-lump and had just enough time to recover at the back that I actually had to coast for a second on the way up the hardest of the incline. We had crossing headwind coming up as we hung a left to the next series of hills, though, and I was certainly about to be detritus strewn about the road. At first, the group tried to echelon and it stretched out from the double yellow to the side of the road in five cyclists, momentarily leaving several, including myself, in the ditch (not the literal ditch, the side of the road in an echelon where there’s no protection from a crossing headwind). The guys at the front surged and straightened the line, though. I survived the next two hills, much to my disbelief.

The A guys made preparations to turn for the short route, positioning ourselves at the back to avoid cross-traffic crashes with the Elite group heading straight. We went up “Shiatown hill” at a ridiculous pace – a 5% hill at 21-1/2-mph and then cruised down the back of the hill to our left turn. We stopped to wait a minute for anyone dropped in the hills and caught our breath. We gave it almost a minute and nobody had come around the bend at the top of the hill so we rolled out – single-file. We had Dave & Val on their tandem, Doc Mike, Chucker, Clark, Dale, Dave and me. We took it easy(ish) up the next hill, then turned on the gas on the way down into town.

I ended up the leadout for the Vernon City Limits sign and gave it everything I had to keep it at 25+ mph over the line. Nobody came around to sprint – I think, with eight miles to go, we were all just content with hammering them out.

We had a nice downhill section after clearing a rough intersection and even with the little headwind left, we made great time of it and kept our speed up. Six to go, an uphill section still north of 22-mph, we were picking them up and putting them down. Five to go we turned for the homestretch, a crossing headwind of a breeze. We kept the speed up, between 22 & 25-mph, taking it a little easy on the hills (what little one’s we had left) and picked up the pace on the flat and downhill sections.

At the turn, when we parted ways with the Elite group, we were sitting on a 24.3-mph average. With the hills and headwind we’d dropped to 23.5 but it was holding steady there. With a mile to go, it was all downhill and we made the most of it, jockeying for position for the sprint finish. I was content to just hold wheels and let the others go for the glory of finishing the ride first. I hammered across the line in the middle of the pack at 28-mph, a solid 23.5 (38 km/h) average showing on the computer.

The ride back to the parking lot was all hi-fives and fist bumps all around. And that brings us back to the beginning of the post. There is something I can’t put my finger on about a fast ride like the one we had last night that just puts a smile on my face. I’m going to have to do some thinking on this because I felt fantastic straight through till my head hit the pillow. What a ride!

28.16 miles in 1:12:03. 430′ of up. 259 watt estimated average power.

Clean, Happy, Sober Living; It’s the Only Way I Want to Be

I get hit with slings and arrows every day, sometimes from those very close to me. I maintain a positive attitude through it. This is how I choose to live and it isn’t easy.

I’m not perfect by a long stretch, sometimes I deserve to have to duck. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes someone might think I deserve to duck when they’re the one who should be ducking.

To put it simply, this is just part of life. At least that’s how I choose to look at it.

I don’t write much about difficulties here. First, if it doesn’t have to do with a bicycle, I have a golden rule; if I’m not going to be worrying about it in six months, it’s not a big deal. This means there aren’t many big deals (especially after two – and some change – decades of recovery).

In the end, what keeps me sane and happy is knowing I’m doing my best to do it right. I really try to be the guy the Big Book says I can be – both the Big Book and the Bigger Book.

When we enter recovery, the idea is to enjoy life because we’d been freed of the shackles of addiction. I take that as one of the most important instructions in the Big Book of AA.

It also doesn’t hurt to remain thankful (and therefore mindful), on a daily basis, that I was spared from a “hell on earth” experience of my own making.

Today I will stay in my lane and concentrate on what I can do to be the best, happiest me I can. That means concentrating only on my own actions and behavior. I will stay in my lane, not for the benefit of all of the other knuckleheads out there (even if they do benefit from a better Jim). I’ll stay in my lane because this is the only way I can be happy, joyous and free.

One day at a time.

Recover hard, my friends. The alternative sucks.

Broken Speed Limit, More Fun Than Should Be Legal, And Fixing the Camper…

Sunday was a busy day. We rode Saturday morning, then went to my youngest’s swim meet, then to my eldest’s university marching band practice. It was a spectacular day but I didn’t get much done – and there was much to be done.

We rode at 7:30 from a high school 15 miles from the house, and one of my favorite routes. It’s a departure from the slow, rarely traveled country roads we’re used to. We head south to the outer suburbs of Detroit.

We had a great, small-ish group. Chuck, Chucker, Matt, Mike, Diane & Jeff on a tandem and me. Mike wasn’t feeling well so he took his toy and went home… turned out he had a knot in his back that wouldn’t release.

Our route is pretty straightforward till we get far enough south that we’re getting to Kensington Metropark. Then we hit a straight shot 8% descent that, with a little effort, you can briefly break the 45-mph speed limit on. I hammer that sucker till I can’t pedal any faster. 50/11 at 45.4-mph. I pedaled so hard I passed the tandem and topped out at 46.5 with a smile stretched from ear to ear (I did not employ the super-tuck for this one).

Now, if you noticed, I hadn’t mentioned my wife yet, who always rides with us on the weekends… heck, normally we’re on the tandem. She’d fallen ill with sore throat (and you know why I first defaulted to “sore throat”) and was asleep when I left. She was in rough shape. She was also not showing any signs of being under the weather Saturday… when we’d been playing kissy-face all day, as married people do. This meant every time I lacked comfortability, cycling in 85 degree heat and abundant sunshine at high rates of speed, I’d think, “Oh, crap, this is it! I’m sick too and I’m x miles from home… this is gonna suck.” Only to feel better a few minutes later. I lost count how many times that happened.

We stopped for coffee and a snack (I had a fantastic cinnamon roll) which, in hindsight, was a little weird… coffee, when it’s just shy of 90 (30 C)? It was fantastic, though – the perfect “not so hot you have to wait 20 minutes to take a sip” drinking temperature. We rolled out for home after a nice, not too long, rest. I felt fantastic and fast all the way home. I relaxed. We ended up with 52 miles, 1,900 feet of up (a lot for what I’m used to – double normal), and an average speed of 18.2-mph, a perfect Sunday Funday.

I got home, showered up, ate some lunch and took a quick nap. And that left the chores. My youngest helped by cutting the grass – her first time on the tractor, so there was some teaching time involved. She was awesome. While she was on the tractor, I turned my attention to the camper. The front storage section started rotting out under the corners (where water gets kicked up from the truck). The corners were gone. It needed a new floor and I had to cover the two holes from below, plus rebuild the righthand side which had rotted out completely.

I started working on it at around 2pm and by 5:30 I was almost done. It took a lot to figure it out but I’ve got it solid, now. I’d be willing to bet it’s good for at least another decade – and if I ever have to revisit it, I know exactly how to put it back together. It turned out vastly better than I’d hoped it would – I’m enthusiastically surprised, really. I’ll finish it up this afternoon – we had a storm blow through that forced me to stow my gear and I was absolutely wiped out by the time I sat down to eat dinner. I wasn’t about to go back out and get dirty after supper. The last bit this evening should go quite fast as I know exactly what I’m doing.

I slept like a baby last night. Everything got done – or close enough to it that I’ll finish tonight.

Fatness, Fitness, Nicotine, Alcohol, Drugs and Recovery

It never ceases to amaze me how much I love food after quitting nicotine – and by “nicotine”, I mean all forms. I smoked, cigarettes and cigars, chewing tobacco, I was even hooked on the stop smoking lozenges for a couple of years. I never had a problem with eating until I gave up the nicotine. I certainly do now, though. Even a properly made peanut butter & jelly sandwich tastes like heaven. Don’t even get me going on some good barbecue, a steak, burger, grilled chicken or salmon, a decent salad with spinach, carrots and cucumbers… I love it all.

I’ve been struggling mightily with being over my ideal weight this year. I like to be about 165 pounds but I’m currently dangling in the high 170’s and I flirted with 190 earlier in the season.

It doesn’t matter how many miles I ride, I can eat enough that, at best, I will maintain my weight. Losing weight, even at 230 miles a week at better than a 19-mph average, has proved most difficult.

I’ve made great strides in recent weeks, though. Adding grilled chicken and salmon to my normal menu has helped immensely.

There have been a few times earlier this year that I entertained the notion of just letting myself go, the way it seems much of our nation has. Then, almost invariably, I see a person who’s been on the wrong side of way too many Double Whopper Combo Meals with an extra side of Chicken Fries struggle just to get from the handicapped parking spot to the electric riding shopping cart and it helps me pop my head out of my ass.

Another thing that has helped keep me on the straight and narrow path is my desire to ride my bikes fast. I’d be plenty happy creeping along at 15-mph, but I love to go fast:

The light blue dotted line is 19.7-mph and that dip well below was climbing hills… the rest was slightly downhill to flat. It is one of my favorite sections of road on our normal routes. As I crested the first hill, I left everyone as I put the hammer down. I was up to 32-1/2-mph and giving it everything I had as I rounded the chicane, leaning my bike so much the pedal would have scraped if my right foot wasn’t up all the way, at 28-mph.

As I exited the final corner, I was smiling ear-to-ear as I waited for the others to catch up. It’s as good as when I was a kid hitting jumps we built in the field across the street from our parents house. It feels like being a kid, only with a lot of money. With twenty or thirty extra pounds, those days are done. I’d never be able to keep that pace up, let alone being able to enjoy keeping that pace, with all of that extra weight.

The recovery is something else altogether, though. Oh, I get to enjoy fitness a little more because I don’t have anything messing that up, but recovery and my relationship with God are a lot deeper than “having fun”. Still, a good bike ride makes recovery more enjoyable, and that makes keeping my spirituality in order all the more important.

If I don’t do what it takes to have a good life, I won’t have one. And that’s the whole point to getting control of how much I’m eating, when it all boils down.

After getting to this point, I’m grateful for being able to understand myself so fully. Sure, I still struggle, but sooner or later, I manage to see the light. I’ll keep coming back, because it keeps getting better.