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A Night In The Dirt, Flyin’ Solo

Michiganders have their “Indian summer”. Yesterday, while it was breezy, the sun was brilliant and the temperature was nothing short of stellar at a balmy 74°. A glorious evening for a bike ride. I readied my gravel bike to roll at 4:30 but left my headlight on the bike room work bench. I figured I had plenty of time…

With a strong south wind, I rolled out dead into it trying to remember that the ride home would be glorious. I just took my time and let my mind go. The whole election is a bummer for me – business will be more difficult, and I really enjoyed the last four (from a business perspective, of course, we’ve never had it so good in construction) and I just needed to let it all go.

I rolled into the wind with a decent cadence and found a sweet spot where I was making great progress with surprisingly little effort – and the dirt roads were in spectacular shape… until I hit Hogan. Hogan was recently grated so it was a little slippy. My once perfect sweet spot went out the window and I had to find another one a little slower. It wasn’t all bad, though. The setting sun was spectacular.

Hold up…  Sunset… I’m on the way out and that’s the photo… I knew I was going to run out of daylight if I went the long way.  I changed my plan, lamenting having left my headlight on the work bench.  They don’t make nights like this in November.

I decided on, basically, an out and back route and picked up the pace a little bit.  It was a struggle into the wind, but it was good work nonetheless.  The only thing on my mind was turning the pedals and enjoying my surroundings.  I realized I’d yet to be passed by a car more than nine miles into my ride.  God, I love that about dirt roads.

I turned around, having reached pavement, for the return ride home.  

Friends, “spectacular” doesn’t quite get it for the return trip.  I put the hammer down and took it to the barn, rolling up the driveway just before light faded into the horizon and the dark overtook.  I spent the rest of the evening feeling pretty awesome about me… and that led to a breakthrough at a meeting last night.  I realized there were a few things I stopped doing that have a profound affect on my happiness, including taking a small inventory of the day’s events (more important, how I handled them) before turning in at night.

I have no doubt, without the calming effect of that fantastic evening ride, I’d have missed the vastly more important breakthrough at the meeting.

Group Cycling for Dummies (Also for Those with a Boat Anchor for a Bike)

I started cycling like many. Mountain biking, then a road bike, then a real road bike, then a real road bike, upgrades, wheels, saddles… ah, road bikes. Or, as I like to refer to them, toys. For adults.

My entrée into road cycling was like akin to Christian Bale’s Ken Miles at the Dearborn test track after the engineers cram “the beast” into a GT40 prototype in Ford Vs. Ferrari… That was me, cycling in a group the first time. “Oh! I’ll have some more of that my girl!”

I felt like I was in the Tour de France. For all of eight miles, when I was promptly dropped as the group surged beyond 28-mph. I wasn’t the first to drop that night and I definitely wasn’t the last, so I chased a guy down who dropped a quarter-mile after I did. Being lost as lost gets, he helped my get back to the parking lot. We rode together every week after that and ended up becoming a very good friend.

I’ve learned a lot since that night.

So that leads to my first tip, a favorite from that little blast from my past:

Don’t be the first to drop in a club ride. Especially if you don’t know where you are!

All kidding aside, getting into group cycling isn’t easy, especially when the group you run into is fast. Everything happens so quickly, one little mistake can be disastrous. So here are a few advanced tips to work for as you progress:

  • Don’t ever be late.  10 minutes early is on time.  Most groups will leave without you if you make it a habit of being late.
  • When we first start out, we tend to concentrate a lot on the wheel ahead of us.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at first, but the focus is too narrow.  The goal should be to become spatially aware of your surroundings so you can look beyond the front of the group to see what’s coming long before it gets there.  See, concentrating on the wheel in front of you at 40 feet per second is too late for you to react.  You want to expand that range of vision so you can also see what the front of the group is doing.  You’ll want to learn to know exactly where the wheel in front of you is while you’re looking up the road.  It’s not easy and don’t force it, just make it a goal to get to that point.
  • Get low when the going gets windy.  Sitting upright in anything but a dead-on headwind will have you working almost as hard as the person driving the group if you don’t have enough space for an echelon.  You can cheat this a little by riding in the drops and getting a little lower to fit in the draft.
  • If you’re a “masher”, learn how to spin, too.  Mashing the pedals takes a lot of effort, maybe 20% more than spinning.  You have to work a lot harder to be a masher, so take a winter on the trainer and learn how to spin.  It’ll help when you’re in a group that’s a little stronger than you are.  Look at the difference this way; how many one-arm curls can you do with a 30 pound weight?  10?  20?  That’s mashing.  How many curls can you do with a 2 pound weight?  You can go all day.  That’s spinning – and at the same time, you’ll be able to accelerate a lot quicker when you’re spinning – to an extent.  
  • Don’t overlap wheels, even in an echelon, until you know how to overlap wheels.  If your front wheel touches or rubs the wheel in front of you, someone’s rear wheel, you’re the one who goes down – and usually very quickly.  The theory is simple.  A rear wheel is fixed and has most of the rider’s weight on it.  A front wheel is not fixed and doesn’t have as much weight on it.  It’s much less stable.  The front wheel twists, and bam.  You’re down.
  • Look at me now.  This is important.  Don’t ever stop pedaling when you’re at the front of the group unless you signal a slowdown first.  With your hand down, make a stop signal and say loudly, “Slowing”.  Don’t EVER stop pedaling when you’re at the front.
  • Smooth and predictable is the order of the day when you’re in a group.  This is not easy at 30-mph (50-km/h), but it is what you must be at all times.  When you’re hurtling down the road at that speed, you’re in the same space the person in front was just at in less than two-tenths of a second.  Blink.  That fast.  You must, except when you’re the last bike in the line, be smooth and predictable.
  • DO NOT ACCELERATE OFF THE FRONT OF THE GROUP after the person in front of you flicks off.  The others behind you are not thinking, “Wow, that fella is strong!”  No, they’re thinking, “Where does that twatwaffle think he’s/she’s going?”  Don’t be a twatwaffle.  See also, smooth and predictable.  If you can go faster, accelerate smoothly and predictably over the course of a quarter-mile.
  • Don’t take someone explaining ground rules to you personally.  Group cycling is all about self-preservation.  If you’re new to a group, they want to make sure they can trust you… and if you make a mistake, they’ll have a desire for you to not make that mistake again.
  • No aero bars in the bunch.  You’re not good enough to use them in a group.  Stop.  You’re not.  Those who actually are good enough to use them in the pack know nobody is good enough to use them in the pack.  At the front, meaning first bike, or off the back and to the side only.  You’re too far from the brakes and your arms are too narrow for decent control of the handlebar.  If you truly believe you’re good enough, it’s likely because you’re a boob.  And you’re wrong.  And colossally arrogant.
  • Start with a slower group for your first rides until you learn the ropes and how they feel when your back is up against them.  Put your ego aside for a few weeks, there will be plenty of time to show everyone else how strong you are… after you know what you’re doing.  For a better workout with a slower group, pull at the front longer. 
  • We have five different classes of rider on our big club ride.  Find out where you fit by talking with others.  We gladly help noobs find the right group to ride with before the big ride.  We want for you to be happy with the group you’re with.  It’s in our best interest for you to come back and ride again.  Groups rely on new blood to remain viable.
  • Always remain teachable.  Those who know everything tend to be a bore.

Cycling With Friends on a Sunday Morning… It’s As Good As It Gets.

We rolled out yesterday morning, three friends, with sights on different goals for each of us.

Chuck, fresh off a brutal 20-mph century the day before with just two others (headwind the whole way after a wind shift, cool temps, and rain), was absolutely smoked. He was riding short no matter what. Mike just wanted to ride, but he wanted to join the slower Gaines Gang for a bit. I didn’t care – I wanted 70 miles so I could meet my weekly 220-mile goal and get me within striking distance of 6,000 outdoor miles for the year.

Mike and I were side-by-side and Chuck sat in behind me. We slow-rolled and came up with a plan that would get Chuck home in 40 and get Mike and I to 100k so all I’d have to do is figure out how to add seven or eight miles to get my 70.

Now, I knew Chuck wasn’t taking any turns up front so Mike and I rode side-by-side till he tired out at about five miles.  We decided to roll the long way to get to Gaines after some differing opinions in how to get there we picked the simplest and I chose my pace and settled in for a long turn up front.  I pulled for the next eight miles between 17 & 20-mph – easy up the hills, 19-20 on the flats.  We pulled into the Gaines Elementary School and waited for the group to get ready.  

Now, the Gaines Gang is S-L-O-O-O-W-W-W… and the worst thing a fast guy can do is jump on the front without getting accustomed to the pace first, then go about hammering the group until it splinters into a dozen little pieces, all the while thinking they’re doing something good giving everyone a nice draft.  Chuck stuck to the back for a bit, then headed home.  I remained well back of the lead and let the tandems do the pulling on the cloudy, cool, breezeless morning.  I snapped a few photos and talked with many of the riders, charging to the front to announce a gap, then fading back to pull the riders back up to the group.  The pace was reasonable and unquestionably fun and easy.  

We stopped at 36 miles for a break (it was 36 for us, it was around 23 for everyone else).  It was a quick stop.  Matt had rolled on and the main group was heading out to Perry – that would have turned out to be closer to 90 miles round trip for me and a little more than I wanted to play with (way more than Mike wanted) so we turned and caught Matt to ride with him for a bit.  We had a nice, leisurely stroll, talking, laughing and telling stories all the way back to the elementary school.  We dropped Matt at his car and Mike and I rode on for his house, picking up the pace.  We made plans for today’s ride, then said our good-byes.  I was at 60 miles, just over, and needed another ten.  I devised a few schemes to get there but there wasn’t much appealing about any of them.  Then, the perfect plot hatched in my melon – I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Only one mile of headwind out of the ten to get home.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say “I dropped the hammer”, because I didn’t.  Mike and I were making decent time all the way back and sitting on a 17-mph average, it wasn’t like I was going to turn that into an 18 in just ten miles.  On the other hand, I didn’t watch the paint dry, either.  I set about getting home and clocked nine of the ten miles at around 20+ mph.  I did manage to get that 17 up to 17.3 before pulling into the driveway, happy as a pig in mud.  

Friends, as slow as that was, I enjoyed every mile.  There once was a time that pace would drive me up a wall because it was too slow and I’d be too anxious about losing the opportunity to improve my fitness, power, and speed.  That’s a whole new post, though.  That’ll be out tomorrow.

Today, I’m fast enough to know a slow ride is fun and can’t hurt me one bit.  It’s a great place to be.

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The Science and Reality of Eater-dynamics and Cycling; My Experience with Cycling, Food and Being Fast.

How important is a lightweight bike for keeping up with the fast group?

For anyone who’s ridden one, the answer is “pretty freakin’ important”.  “Aero” is big, too, although I can do just fine with a 21 year-old frame and a decent wheelset.

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Anyone who’s ridden an aero bike will tell you they do make fast easier, but you’ll be just as fast on a decently equipped non-aero bike.  I can choose either weapon – the specialized just makes “fast” a little easier.  The Trek is also a little more than two pounds heavier than the Specialized (15.8/18.3 respectively).

The real question is, “How important is having a lightweight body if you want to be fast”?  Let me save you the trouble; it’s pretty freakin’ important. Certainly more important than the aforementioned lightweight aero bike.

Many people are under the incorrect assumption that we who are fast can eat anything we want and still stay lean. That’s not entirely true. It’s not exactly false, either. When I went from 1,800 miles in 2011 to 5,300 miles in 2012, I dropped weight. Fast. I went from 172 pounds to 151 in one summer. I lost enough my wife suggested I’d better eat more in a hurry because I was too skinny.  And therein lies the rub, eating more.

Left 2012 vs Right 2015

I had to learn how to eat for all of those miles. By the time 2015 had rolled around I was back up to 168, just about perfect for how I like me. I learned to double what I ate during cycling season. My wife was happy. I was happy. And eating more was a lot of fun!

2016 and 2017 came and went with bumps in mileage (8,500 and 9,300 respectively) and all was well. 2018 was a big year at 10,100 miles but I started noticing a problem; I had become accustomed to eating a lot. Worse, I didn’t slow down the consumption over the fall and winter months, either – my definitions for full and hungry changed. My weight, for the first time since I started riding, stayed above 170 all year long. Last year was a decrease in miles and an increase in weight. I’m in the upper 170’s now… and I finally realized drastic measures are required again. This time I had to cut way back on what I’m eating. I’ve taken to what I’m calling a “half diet”. I eat half of what I used to.

As I got closer to 50, dropping weight became more difficult and it’s been too easy to justify eating with all of the miles… and what is it with age that good food tastes so much better?!

Anyway, the point is, it doesn’t matter how fast I am.  I, sadly, have to watch what and how I eat now.  Especially during the off-season.  I’m not used to having this problem but I’m dealing with it because it isn’t going to go away with hopes and dreams and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be fat.

So; cycling is good, food is good, fast is good… I just have to watch the one in the middle even though it doesn’t matter as much to being fast as some believe.  I’m faster at 175 pounds than I was at 155… particularly because a lot of that 20 pounds is in vastly bigger legs.  My daughter, without being prompted, called them “massive” compared to the rest of me.  Massive isn’t bad, but it’s heavy.

Peace, Contentment and, Dare I Say, Happiness Are Possible; I Just Never Found Them at the Bottom of a Bottle

Before I begin, please take note that I didn’t specify what kind of bottle.  I suppose I should have added syringe and bong/pipe as well, but you get the idea.

I was especially lucky when the entire population of Michigan decided I should end my drinking/controlled substance career I happened into recovery at the early age of just twenty-two years-old.  I was really just a puppy at that point.  I was… call it fortunate, because I knew down to my baby toes that I would be completely, irrevocably fucked if I continued to drink.

And remembering this has been the gift that keeps on giving ever since I quit.

You see, knowing your best thinking has gotten you into such a deep hole that you can’t possibly figure out how to stop digging, let alone work on climbing out – that brings with it a lot of freedom.  When our back is against a wall and a freight train is bearing down on us, well, we either move or get run over.  You read that right, that brings us freedom.

How is that possible, you ask?

Well, it’s very simple, really.  When you’re at that point you don’t know whether to $#!+ or get f***ed, it becomes increasingly easier to stop fighting recovery with fear.

Please read that again, that last paragraph.  Two sentences.  “Oh, whatever will I do for fun if I can’t smoke and drink anymore, whoa is me!”  That becomes, “I don’t care, just make the freaking pain stop!”  I recovered, and I deserve to be recovered, because I stopped fighting the fear of recovery.  Folks, if the cure for cancer were to go to three meetings a week, work a few steps, and say a few prayers, the line to get into every meeting would be out the door, stretched around the block.  That’s simply how I looked at recovery.  If you’d have told me standing on my head in the corner twice a day, three minutes at a time would help me recover, I’d have done it.  I’d have looked at you funny, but I’d have done it, because it was either that or the freight train.

Let’s look at this another way.  I love people who absolutely will not… can not simply give themselves to the notion that there’s can be a Higher Power out there for their recovery’s sake.  Really?  Look, I had a pretty high bottom, but I also did some deplorable shit in my using days.  Nobody gets to the jumping off place just before recovery on a winning streak.  After all the heinous shit we did, the Higher Power is just a step too far?  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see why that would be.

For God’s sake, I almost drank myself to death before my 30th birthday.  I can remember getting lost after getting hammered at a strip joint one night and I ended up pissing my pants while driving my car, trying to get home, hammered… but  I can’t allow the idea that there might be an HP out there who will take away my character defects because that’s just a bridge too far?  Folks, after all the crap we did before we were good and ready to quit, after all of the lying, cheating, stealing and conniving, the HP isn’t the road block to get hung up on.  Don’t let that small thing get in the way of peace, contentment and happiness.

There’s a better way.  And remember; we only say “God” to keep it simple.  If you need a starting point, an ashtray won’t work as a higher power.  I know some people claim it can be broken down to a base level, but the old ashtray is bullshit.  Choose the power in the group to start.  It is a Higher Power of our understanding, after all, whatever your capacity is at that point, so try the power at the meeting that helps us stay sober through situations that used to have us hanging on to the edge of a toilet as if we were rock climbing so we could puke at the top before you go do an ashtray.

At least that will get you used to the idea that it’s okay, after all that nasty shit we did that will be on a fourth and fifth step very soon, to put a little faith in something you can’t see or touch.  It’s not the end of the world.

It’s the beginning.

Don’t let a Higher Power be your roadblock to happiness.  The alternative is the freight train, and you definitely don’t want that.  We’ve been through too much to let something so simple get in the way of contentment and peace.  And if you absolutely, positively can’t get the HP behind you, read the chapter “We Agnostics” in the Big Book.  It starts on Page 44.

In the end, the AA way of life isn’t for everyone and it’s not the only way to sober up.  It’s the only way I know, though, to switch from being a drunk with one foot in the grave to a happy, content, peaceful, productive member of society.  I’ll admit that I was fortunate, though.  While I had other hangups about the program, the HP was no roadblock for me.

Amidst the Chaos, A Wonderful Weekend Of Happiness, Freedom, Peace and Cycling

Even when life gets difficult, recovery lights the way. With 201,000 miles on it, my Equinox is finally starting to nickle and dime us to death. It’s been paid off for a year and some change so we’re in that trap; is it better to fix everything that’s going wrong and not have a payment, or just pony up and buy a new vehicle? Either way, it’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, by a long shot.

The hard part is, it still runs like a top.

Anyway, enough of that doom and gloom, crap. We’re experiencing some of the best cycling weather in years, we just had our first cookout of the year, and other than my once outrageously reliable Chevy Equinox, life is fantastic. Whatever we end up doing, this too shall pass.

Friday afternoon was a quick, and I do mean quick, ride with my wife just to get our miles in before our dinner party. We only logged 19-3/4 miles and made it back with just enough time to shower up and I ran to the convenience store for a bag of ice. Our friends showed up shortly after I got back.

Saturday was a perfect day for a long ride but we didn’t have many takers show up. My wife and I rolled out alone and picked up Phill and Brad along the way. That ride had a bit of everything. Slow miles, mid-range, and we even got into some speed every now and again. I pulled into the driveway with an enjoyable 100 km.

Sunday’s have been deemed “Sunday Funday” for a month and a week now. Rather than push the pace, we just go out and have fun riding with friends. My wife and I have been taking the tandem out the last five Sundays in a row and we’re enjoying it more than in the past. First, we’re working together better, and second, when I don’t have to worry about pushing the pace to keep up, I don’t worry about working so hard – so I’m not fighting against my wife with every pedal stroke. We’re still working through some communication issues that come with noob tandem riders, but those communication errors make up about 5% of a given ride. In other words, they’re minimal (and usually funny).Yesterday’s ride fit that norm – 95% great, 5% working on the communication skills. We rolled out to sunshine and a barely there breeze and temps in the low 60’s – perfect cycling weather. We warmed up in a hurry, though. I hadn’t noticed but we crept up from an easy 18-19-mph to 21-1/2. I’d changed the nose angle on my saddle a little and I put a different saddle on for my wife (at her request) and we were both having a much better time producing power. In fact, we had to dial it back a time or two to keep it “Sunday Funday” pace. We even added miles on – about six at the half-way point.We stopped in Flushing and had a much needed Coke.

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We rolled for home, shedding riders as we went. Phill took off first, then Big Joe, and that left Jeff & Diane on Diane’s tandem and Dave. We kept an easy-ish clip the rest of the way home and I let our friends know I’d cut watermelon up and had it waiting in the refrigerator.We pulled into the driveway with exactly 46.57 miles… and this is important because I found out a few hours later that if that had been 47.07 miles, I’d have stopped exactly at 1,000 miles for the month. Instead, 999.5. Crime in Italy, Chuck. I was also 9 miles short on my 250 mile goal for the week. I thought about heading back out after I cut the grass, but thought better of it for once. I’ll top 1,000 for the month today and add to that total in Lennon tomorrow evening (we’ve got a spectacular forecast all the way through the weekend). I simply didn’t need the miles.

Later, after dropping my daughter at a friend’s house, we worked through those communication issues I mentioned earlier. We had some big laughs and sorted a lot out. I didn’t have any noodle salad for dinner last night, but did have a tasty pizza. Hey, I just had the thought maybe I should change “good times and noodle salad” to “good times and pizza”.

Noodle salad is good, for sure… but pizza, now that’s happiness and freedom on a plate.

Without Recovery: Fear, Pain, Misery. With Recovery: Happiness, Freedom, Joy, Peace. Rocket Science It Ain’t.

It’s been a while since I broke from cycling for a good, old-fashioned, relentlessly positive recovery post…

We in recovery want for every alcoholic in anguish and misery to experience the peace, serenity and happiness that comes with continuous recovery. That we’ve found in recovery.

We want it so bad, if we could take all of the knowledge we have in our melon and cram it into someone else’s so they could instantly understand down to their baby toes how good recovery is, we’d do it without hesitation. Even if doing so would cost us some of our happiness because we usually have some to spare.

I do…

And just so you can know the joy I feel of what it’s like to be free.

Jesus, does it feel good. Give it a try. What have you got to lose? A little fear, pain and misery? Why would anyone want to hold onto that?

We don’t want to get you to conform to our way of life because of some dogmatic, sycophantic desire to have a follower. We try to pass on to others what worked for us because it actually worked.

There’s a lot of negativity in this world. We can use all the positive we can get.

We in Alcoholics Anonymous, as hamhanded as we can be at times, are simply trying to spread some happiness to a group of people who badly need it.

So maybe next time you run into one of us who is a bit awkward at trying to pass on what worked for them you’ll remember why they’re doing it and not worry so much about how. And maybe you can cut them a little slack. What they’re attempting is good. They’re just not very good at it yet.

My name is Jim and I used to be an alcoholic, but I’ve recovered, just for today, and my only desire here is to freely give what was so freely gave to me… because it’s really, really good. A lot of people could use some good… and I have some to spare.

Now, about cycling…

One Fine Memorial Day Ride And The Simple Joy In Using Every Gear You’ve Got.

I rode with some my wife and a couple of friends Memorial Day morning. We chose a route that’s normally exceptionally busy with traffic, but we hit a perfect storm of quiet this weekend. First, with COVIDcation and stay at home, that knocked down the traffic substantially. Second, the “up north” of the lower peninsula was opened up late last week so people flocked up to escape. Traffic wasn’t non-existent, but it was as light as I’ve ever seen for that route – and it’s a fun route.

We had a chance of rain in the morning, but it was one of those, “Okay, it’s going to be 90° (32 C), I hope it rains a little” days. We rolled out at 8 am with sunshine and a light headwind. It was 70 (21 C) and spectacular. We started out on the slow side but picked up the pace as we went, up and over rollers, never too easy but I wasn’t ever in a position where I questioned my own sanity, either. It was just a fun, nice ride.  Chuck, the guy up front in the photo below, took the first seven miles up front and I took the next seven and when I dropped back, Chuck was next in line to take another pull… so I said to my normal riding buddy, Chuck, “There’s no free lunch today, buddy”.  Five miles later he took the cue and took us to the buffet at the Golden Coral.  I don’t know how long he was up front, but it was loooooooooooonnnnnnnngggg.

22 miles in, the ride gets fun. We were greeted with a sign that warns of a steep 8% descent. The second I crested I decided to see how fast I could pedal down the hill. I hammered through every gear I had – the last I looked at the computer it read 44.8-mph and I simply didn’t want to pedal any faster. After looking the ride up, I only managed 0.2-mph faster that last bit down the hill, but I found out the fun way exactly what my top end speed is in my biggest gear (50/11). I think I wore a smile on my face for the next hour.

At 24 miles we turned into Kensington Metro-park. Kensington is fantastically beautiful. Nature preserves, a huge lake, a golf course, and more hills than you can shake a stick at – some you actually have to climb. On the way up the big one, I shifted to my last gear, the 34/28, the little granny… Did I have to use the granny gear? Not really, but with that last shift, no matter what happened the rest of the ride, I’d used every gear I had.

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We wound around the park trail after it left the park – they have a speed limit that I could only honor if I were pushing my bike. I would have to kick my own ass for riding 10-mph unless it was up a fair hill. We stopped at a gas station to pick up a couple of Coke’s and take a breather. It was starting to heat up. After finishing our drinks, we headed over to the pickle ball courts so Chuck could say hi to his wife – and we made it just in time for an A-10 Warthog flyover.  It was spectacular.

Shortly after, we headed for home with a slight tailwind.  The closer we got, the faster we went until my wife took the reigns and took a six mile turn between 22 & 30-mph on her aero bars.  It was an awesome pull.  I took over from there and took us home.  We pulled into the parking lot with just under an 18-mph average.  53.8 miles in 3 hours.  It was as good as it gets.

Recovery from Addiction: How Bad Do You Want It?

Bluntly put, sobriety isn’t enough. Sober up a drunken horse thief, what do you have?

A horse thief.

My sponsor helped sober up a drunken loser, but I wanted more than sober. I wanted freedom. I wanted to recover from alcoholism.

Wouldn’t you want the package deal, complete with the reverse country song where you get the pickup truck, the house, your dog, wife, and kids back? I’d have just settled for “happy”, but the package deal sounded pretty good, too.

I love nothing more than to listen to people new to recovery tell me about how they don’t “like” this aspect of recovery or that. I mean really, why work all of the steps? They’re probably not all necessary, anyway. They’re only suggestions. Better, having been sober for all of twenty days, you know that you don’t need all of that hooey anyway, right? Why bother with an inventory or making amends? Amends are so 1900’s, anyway? Isn’t the whole “Higher Power” thing a little old?

When I run into this person, I just say, OKAY, smile and nod and watch them struggle and relapse. Over and over again. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think.

You couldn’t tell me anything until I was ready to listen. Maybe the next time they’ll be ready to do whatever it takes to recover. Or maybe they’ll die before they get the chance. Or worse, maybe they’ll hurt someone else and end up locked away. The life of an addict sucks that way, but it usually sucks a lot worse for the innocent bystander.

Maybe there’s a simpler way?

I can remember like it was yesterday… decades ago – I may have had seven months, maybe eight. My new sponsor and I were talking one night after a meeting. Out of the blue he says, “Hey, when you park your car, do you pull into a spot nose first or do you back in?”

I responded that I pull in nose first.

He said, “Starting tomorrow, I want you to back into every parking spot you can for the next month. I’ll tell you why at the end of the month.”

I looked at him like he was bat-shit crazy, but I shrugged my shoulders and said, “OKAY”. And for the next month after that night, to the day, I backed into every parking space I could. And at the end of that month I asked him why.

He said, “I wanted to see how willing you were to do whatever it takes to stay sober because if you weren’t willing to do something as simple as back a car into a parking space, you’d never get through the hard parts of fixing the wreckage of your past.”

Guess who made it through the tough parts of fixing the wreckage of his past? Guess who then went on to struggle through building a life for himself, getting to a point he’s so happy he can hardly believe it some days? He’s got two thumbs and looks like this guy.

So go ahead, you know best anyway, right? Skip the parts you don’t like and muddle through the parts you don’t mind half-heartedly. I’m sure everything will work out fine anyway. You probably know better than those crazy old farts who wrote the Big Book anyway.

Good luck with that.

I don’t blame anyone for trying to do it their way. Even better for those who find happiness. I wasn’t smart enough, or maybe honest enough, to figure it out on my own. Whatever it was, I needed some structure and help… a path to walk.

Having tried that line myself and failed, maybe I can save a noob a few decades of failure and angst. Just do what it says in the f’in’ book. Get a decade or two under your belt and get yourself happy. Then decide what works and what doesn’t. At least if you get to that point, if you find you were wrong, you can go back to what worked.

That’s the easiest, softest way I know. At least the easiest, softest way I know that actually works.

Based on real evidence, too. Not the “it’s evidence because we tell you it’s evidence” kind of evidence.

In fact, and I’ve never done this so I could be entirely wrong (I doubt it, but it’s possible), next time someone says “evidence based recovery”, ask them to see the evidence. I will be doing that from now on because I want to see the saucer eyes.

Meh, knowing my luck, I’ll run into the one person who is prepared for that. Chuckle.

If You’re an Avid Enthusiast Cyclist, It’s Time to Take Razor to Leg…

My friends, for the avid enthusiast cyclist, if you haven’t already, it’s time to shed the winter fur and take a razor to the legs.  My wife prefers I go all year fur-free, and I happily oblige.

For those who didn’t know already, glistening guns are absolutely more aerodynamic – scientifically proven in a wind tunnel.  Shaving the guns is worth between two and four free seconds a mile.  That may not sound all too impressive, but that works out to between 200 and 320 free seconds over 100 miles.  Now, either you save three to six minutes or that’s watts you don’t have to produce to keep up.  Don’t stop reading just yet, though!  There’s more to this than just shave your legs to be like the rest of the sheep.

I messed up when I shaved my legs the first time – I listened to the damned internet before properly investigating whether or not I should even bother.

So here’s “the rest of the story”.  I was going to start riding with a group – my first club ride – and I didn’t want to look like a noob.  Everything on the web back then said you gotta shave the guns – and this was before Specialized tested shaved legs in their wind tunnel.  It was treated as a right of passage, almost.  It even made the rules.  I bought into the online hype and quietly, without telling my wife, went to town.  Now, I had some hairy legs back then.  Not quite yeti, but pretty freaking close.  I even had to regularly trim that leg hair with a set of clippers when it got too long and unruly.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much a shock for my wife the first time she crawled into bed and was like, “Hey, wait a minute“…  God bless her, she loved my newly shorn legs and I’ve never looked back.  But…

Upon discussing my new, sparkling guns with the owner of the local shop, he chuckled and said it was completely unnecessary as only racers bother.  I had to scrape my jaw up off the asphalt with a shovel – I must have looked pretty funny because I was wearing one hell of an incredulous look on my face.  I said, “But the internet”… and just let it trail off.

With that out of the way, there’s a pecking order of who shaves and who doesn’t – and this is important so you don’t show up for the wrong group with the wrong legs!

Roadies:  Shave.
Gravel Roadies: Yea or neigh.
Mountain bikers:  Don’t shave.
Triathletes:  Shave, without question. Including eyebrows, ears, nose holes… possibly eyelashes…  I’m just kidding.  Just the legs will do, but you’re thinking about the eyebrows, aren’t you?  I know.

Now, there’s a pecking order to that as well, because many of us cross lines into different genres of cycling.  You defer to shaving.  For instance, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally rides a gravel bike, you’re okay with hairy legs.  On the other hand, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally plays a roadie, you shave.  If you’re a triathlete dabbling in the other genres, think about investing in Nair… or see if you can be their CEO.  The point is, if you will ride, even occasionally, a shaving bike, you shave.  Or you’d better be able to lay down the watts so others are in awe at your fabulousness.

So, folks, the truth is you really don’t have to shave your legs if you’re a dude.  On the other hand, I’ll never go back.  Once you’ve ridden in a group for a while, you’ll pick out hairy guys in a pack almost instantly because they stick out like a sore, hairy thumb… and nine times in ten, that identifier tips you off to keep an extra watchful eye on how that person rides because they’re often new or not used to riding in a pack.  Or they’re the one whose wheel you want to ride.

So, shave your guns or don’t.  You will work a lot harder if you don’t.  It’s science.  And physics.  And rocket science.  Or something.

UPDATE:  As you will see in the comments section, there is a technicality in terms of what “Guns” are.  In weightlifting, guns are the arms – that which is used to pump iron.  In cycling, the “guns” are the legs – what you use to turn the pedals.  Just to be clear.