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TNIL: Running On Empty Edition

I joined a Strava challenge to cycle 400 km in the month of July. I got my badge last night.

It was hot when I left work. The thermostat showed 93 balmy, sunshiny degrees (34 C). With a 12% chance we’d see enough rain to wet the road, I readied and packed the Venge.

I was the only one to show up for the warm-up. Heh. Warm-up. It was ninety-freaking-three degrees! There was a gnarly anvil cloud the size of a mountain to the north and much farther south but it was sunny and fair other than that. I was optimistic. I didn’t push the warm-up, not even a little. 17-mph.

We had an surprisingly small group in the parking lot. A lot of people using the long weekend to a vacation. Only two A-Elite guys and a decent handful of us A peeps. On the bright side, Carla and Allen showed with their son – we hadn’t seen the whole crew in almost two years.

We rolled together at 6:01 with the big dogs up front. I expected them to get bored and drop us within a few miles. One tends to be impatient and the other, a National star athlete, has a reputation for only having one gear (and it’s very fast).

The surge to drop us never came. they just kept an easy pace, between 21 & 24 for their initial eight mile turn up front. After that, we cycled through the double pace-line as we normally would.

But the clouds had been building while we’d been enjoying the effort of our friends. We weren’t halfway around the 33-mile route when we hit the first wet pavement. It wasn’t bad at first, just annoyingly damp – enough to make you wash your bike after. It got worse.

I almost forgot! I’d been quite nervous all day about whether or not I’d be able to hang with the group. After three hard days in a row over the holiday weekend, a Tuesday Night was not what I needed. I did rather well, though. First, I was almost all the way in the back of the pace-line for that monster first pull from Jared and Dave. Second, I was rarely paired with someone who would take a long turn up front which meant I could stay, relatively speaking, fresh. I didn’t have to dig into the well until we got to the hills.

As we came out of the hills for the home stretch, we dropped the son, then Allen, then his wife (the Force is strong with that one!) before Clark and I started faltering. Dave, Jared and Clinton slowly pulled away on the newly drenched roads. We had a storm blow through that somehow missed us but had deposited enough rain the rooster tails were huge. At 23-mph we were riding into our own spray off the front tires. I caught Clark and we traded turns at the front till we hit the final mile. Clark was fading fast so I went around and slowly picked up the pace so he could hold on. I held it between 23 and 26 all the way to the line and gave it everything I had, expecting Clark to blow by me at any second. He never did and I crossed the line with a 21.7-mph average for the long course (33-miles) before sitting up, only to realize I’d dropped him a while back.

I sat up, completely out of gas and dripping wet, to let him catch back up. We took it easy all the way back to the parking lot. And I mean easy.

Special thanks to the girls who attend the church that lets us use the back lot to stage our rides who always show up with water, Gatorade and snacks on hot days. This week they brought watermelon with them. The eldest laughed at the uncontrollable grunt I let out on the first chew of a big piece. It was heavenly. After my watermelon and a Gatorade, I packed up and went home. I had to clean up my bike so nothing rusted, but I didn’t last long after that. I don’t even remember falling asleep, but it took me quickly. I slept straight through the night without a single toss or turn. I woke up in exactly the same spot I was in when I fell asleep.

Thankfully, we’ve got inescapable rain in the forecast for the afternoon so I’m taking the night off. My last day off was 433 miles ago – more than half of those (226) in the last four days and a hard ride, every one. I’m ready for a little rain-induced R&R.

And, incidentally, with this post I’ve completed a 60-day stretch with a post every day – and on my birthday, no less.

A Different Kind of Father’s Day Prayer, From the Perspective of a Man in Recovery

I had a thought this morning and I decided to skip my regularly scheduled post, which will come out at noon our time, instead. This is better. And worth it.

Thank you, God for letting me be a father. Thank you for allowing me to see what it’s like to love someone as I imagine You love us. It was an eye opener, and I understand better what love is for being a dad. Thank You for showing me what “Sometimes you wanna throw ’em like a lawn dart, but you just gotta love ’em” means. Thank You for my sponsor who passed on that on to me. I am thankful beyond words.

Thank You for the hugs and kisses. Thank You for the near misses. Best of all, thank You for giving me the help I needed, when I asked for it, to beat my addiction – because that made everything else possible.

For all of the things I’ve royally screwed up over the years, thank You for the lessons that got me to where I’m at today. Thank You for the peace, contentment and happiness that is my life after addiction and through recovery. We should all be so fortunate.

Thank You for my wife and kids. Thank You for the opportunities.

Most of all, thank You for not turning Your back on me when I deserved it. I’ll do my part as I promised all those years ago; without being a cheerleader, I’ll keep giving recovery everything I’ve got and passing on what has been so freely given to me; that life after addiction is sweet.

Thank you for the opportunity to know joy. One day at a time.

One last thing before I roll out, God; thanks for opening my eyes to the good in the world. There’s so much to be grateful for and I’ll enjoy all of it till my time is up. I’ll continue to do my best to skid sideways into my casket with a leg out, in a cloud of dust, shouting “WOW! What a ride!”

Laughing At Ketel One’s Feel-good Gibberish – A Recovering Alcoholic’s Look at Nonsensical Words Strung Together To Make Sentences.

Ketel One vodka “Botanicals” has a commercial for their vodka. Now, I was a vodka kind of guy back when I was a drunk. When I absolutely, positively had to be hammered right now, vodka was my go to… or rum. I loved the rum, too… well, or Mad Dog 20/20… or Old English 800… wait, I’m getting off track. Let’s stay on point.

It’s rare I ever pay attention to a commercial for alcohol anymore because it’s a little hard to make “hell on earth” look attractive to recovering alcoholic who, against all odds, found peace, contentment and happiness in recovery. For some reason this howler made it through my ignoring the commercial watching baseball the other day; “Crafted to be enjoyed responsibly” they said.

Wait, crafted to be enjoyed responsibly?

Believing it could be possible to craft vodka to be enjoyed responsibly by a drunk is simply “stupid”.

Here’s me, 30 years ago, sipping my fruity Ketel One; “Oh, that’s tasty! But I want to get hammered… Hmmm… I really want to get hammered, but this vodka was crafted to be enjoyed responsibly… perhaps I shall refrain.”

Said no drunk, ever. In the history of history. Ever.

Of course, the commercial begs the obvious question, “how so, Ketel One?” I would like to know exactly the steps that were taken, that differ from the manufacture of any other liquor on earth, to craft your vodka “to be enjoyed responsibly”. The statement is obviously utter, feel-good gibberish because if you think you could do anything, let alone manufacture liquor in a special way, to control my drinking, you’re a couple beers shy of a six-pack.

In non-American parlance, you’re fuckin’ nuts. Well done, Ketel One. Ya dopes. Keep coming back.

Stay tuned…

The problem I have with blaming my faults and troubles on “society”… and why it never works.

Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.  Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.  They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an example of self-will run riot, though they usually don’t think so.

Page 62 Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

So here’s a little secret; your average person isn’t any better than the alcoholic when it comes to stepping on the toes of others, then blaming them for the reaction.  We recovered/recovering drunks and addicts keep it simple by keeping it about the alcoholic or addict, but normal folk can benefit from this simple truth just the same.  When I lay blame outside myself, I take the emphasis off of the one person on this rock I can actually change; me.

If I’m worried about what “society” does or doesn’t “think”, I would suggest I’ve got a bigger problem in the first place!  First, what society says or thinks is nebulous at best; usually thoughts or sleights made up by those who want a good excuse to blame someone else for their troubles, faults or lot in life.  The best part is, there’s no solution, no way to actually fix the problem.  You say “society” profits off of people’s insecurities, right?  Let’s delve into that a bit.

Say we see ourselves as, or we “feel”, fat (when I “feel” fat, wouldn’t you know, my scale backs that “feeling” up).  We typically don’t like that we ate enough to get that way, but guess what; not liking that we did ain’t gonna change that we did.  It’s not fair that chocolate makes me fat if I eat too much of it, right?  Fair or not, doesn’t matter.  If I eat too much, my big ass will weigh heavily on the scale.  Society doesn’t make me feel one way or another about being overweight.  The scale and mirror do all of the damage.  Oh, I can blame society for how I feel, sure, but that’s a donut shop lie.

For those who haven’t frequented this blog for years, what’s a donut shop lie?

That’s the lie you tell everyone else sitting with you at the donut shop counter, knowing the they won’t call you on it.  Worse, that donut shop lie is a pernicious little bugger, because once the teller of that BS believes it, they’re absolutely screwed because in real life, you can look at “changing what society thinks” like this:  whilst, and at the same time, pissing into the wind and howling at the moon, yell at the top of your lungs that society should change its attitude and be nicer to you.  Now, let me know when you’re tired of pissing on yourself because you’ll drown before anything outside your own gray matter changes.

This comes down to one simple question:  Do I want to be right, or happy?  I can’t have both.  If you want to be happy, and I surely do, I can explain a two-step process that will release you from the bondage of “society”.  It did me.  Ready?

  1. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, or hurt other people.  Do the next right thing in any given situation.
  2. Here’s the important part, repeat after me; as long as I’m doing the first item honestly and fairly, nobody else’s opinion of me matters.  This includes society, because I know I’m doing what’s good, fair and right.

Now, I’m going to ask you a question.  I’m one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet and I work in a meat grinder of an industry.  I have an extremely stressful job.  Do you honestly think I spend one second of any day giving one, single flying f*** what society thinks about anything?  F*** no I don’t.  Think of these little, rich ninnies and politicians talking about the ills of the world over a French Laundry meal with their $600 bar tab that some special interest is paying for as a soft bribe… oh, things would be so much better if everyone would just live like they think we should.  Meantime these corrupt, conniving motherf***rs are bending or breaking every rule they think we should live by because they honestly believe those rules shouldn’t apply to them.  And you want to worry about what that thinks?  Folks, when you look at it that way, trying to follow that nebulous horseshit is, put simply, bat-shit crazy.

Don’t participate.  Live your life well and come to find you don’t have any time or place in your life for what “society” thinks.  You’ve got better things to think about.

As I’ve Said…

I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s start with everyone who believes the earth needs to be emptied of half its humans… then we’ll pause to see how that worked.

Something tells me that’ll do.

Today’s Daily Reflections… The Other Half of the Twelfth Step…

Daily Recovery ReadingsDecember 26, 2020 Daily Reflection ACCEPTING SUCCESS OR FAILURE “Furthermore, how shall we come to terms with seeming failure …

DR – December 26, 2020

Here’s the important part:

I believed for a long time that, in order to be in tune with the Twelve Steps, it was enough for me “to carry this message to alcoholics.” That was rushing things. I was forgetting that there were a total of Twelve Steps and that the Twelfth Step also had more than one part. Eventually I learned that it was necessary for me to “practice these principles” in all areas of my life. In working all the Steps thoroughly, I not only stay sober and help someone else to achieve sobriety, but also I transform my difficulty with living into a joy of living.

This is my secret to happiness. I’m not perfect. My wife might argue that I’m not even very good… and she might be right. But I’m dedicated. I’m determined. And I give it my best.

The key to happiness for this recovering drunk is practicing the principles in all my affairs. It’s as simple, and often as difficult, as that.

And that last sentence of the quote is unquestionably true.

For Those of Us in the North, It’s Time to Take Your Vitamin D, Kids… What a Good Shot of Vitamin D does for Me.

I am a notoriously positive person. A local radio personality, Paul W. Smith, likes to push listeners to a “relentless positive attitude” on air and I’ve tried to live that. However, every stinkin’ year around the middle of November, when the weather turns to crap (cold, wet, gloomy), I basically lose my $#!+. I don’t necessarily suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I don’t do well without the sunshine. Between, say, May and October I get plenty of sunshine (a minimum of 15 minutes a day without sunscreen) but that’s impossible from November through March. It’s just too cold to run around with more than a few square inches of skin showing.

My positive attitude becomes a lot more work.

Invariably, long about the first few weeks of January I remember that my doctor once prescribed Vitamin D for me and maybe I should take it.  I do, and that’s about that.  I may have noticed a minor change here or there, but I only take the little capsule when I remember, so it’s sporadic at best.

This year, I started early and managed to take my 5,000 IU capsule regularly and what a difference!

Now, being a person having recovered from (and who is continuously in the process of recovering from) addiction, I spend a lot of time paying attention to what goes on in my head.  The difference isn’t some magical creature that sprinkled pixie dust over me and has me all happy now.  No, only cocaine and a few other illicit drugs do that well, folks.  Not that I know… erm… you know what?  Let’s just move along! 

Anyway, the difference is in my thought process, or more specifically, the quality of thoughts that pop into my melon out of nowhere or better, that second thought is vastly superior.

Now, if you pay attention to what goes on in your melon, being a person of exceptional nuttiness, if you want to be normal you come to find that you can’t do anything about those crazy first thoughts that pop into your head.  You can’t control them.  They’re just there, like a stinky fart you walk into at the grocery store.  It’s not like you could see the flatus sitting there in the air, right?  Nope, all of a sudden your eyes start watering and you’re forehead deep in fart.  Well, that first crazy thought is a lot like that.  What matters is the second thought.  I can control that one.  It’s what I do with the first thought that matters.

As an example, let’s say the random thought that I’d like to get good and $#!+-faced pops into my head (it has in the past, though it’s been a while).  I can’t do anything about that first thought, it’s just there.  I don’t entertain that thought, though.  I don’t allow it validity.  Who gives a flying f*** why it popped in there, crazy $#!+ happens!  My second thought it, “Man, that’d be stupid.  I’ll throw that first thought in the garbage.”  With practice, this works and doesn’t require more drugs.  

Now, what Vitamin D does is it makes those second thoughts faster, better, and happier.  It makes the response to the crazy “better”.  Therefore, I’m dealing with less “crazy” rattling around up in my melon, therefore life feels happier… so let’s say it isn’t necessarily a lack of crazy, it just makes handling “crazy” easier.

UPDATE: It’s 1,000, not 5,000.

Making the Most of Some Time “Off” through the Winter to Recharge

My wife and I are mainly inside this time of year. My buddy, Chuck likes to ride when the snow flies, but I’m not that guy. I like to spin on the trainer to burn a few calories and keep my legs, but other than that, if it’s not fairly spectacular outside, I’d rather stay in. I have friends all over the spectrum, from straight up outdoor nutter to “I’ll see you in March”.

I could have hit 10,000 overall miles this year but I’ll come up short. I’d have needed somewhere around 800 miles in December to do it. I didn’t even try. I’m at 9,600 and I’ll probably hit 9,800, give or take. The truth is, I like being able to say, “Baby, it’s cold outside! I’m gonna sweat it out on the trainer, shower up and have some dinner”. From March till November, I ride every single day I can. 26 to 31 days a month for nine months. I like having a couple of months a year that I can say, I’m not even riding tonight. I want a day off.

My fitness goals are pretty simple, as far as goals go:

  1. Don’t get fat.
  2. Stay fast.
  3. Stay strong enough to be in the upper crust of the B Group.
  4. Be happy.

None of those will keep me from taking it easy for a few months in the winter. One requires it.

Major Surgery on the Venge’s Fork: Cutting A Fork Down to Lower a Spacer Stack – Making Perfect… Erm… Perfecter?

Every year, at some point during the winter, I take the headset of my Specialized Venge apart. I break everything down I can and clean everything up. This is how my ’13 bike looks like it was rolled off the floor a few months ago, and rides as well, too. Taking the headset apart can be a bit of a daunting task, unless you’ve done it before. On modern bikes (2003 and newer) it’s quite simple, though putting everything back together requires knowing the procedure and order of everything because it has to be done right or the bike won’t turn correctly.

This year’s cleaning was a bit more involved. After changing my stem cap for the umpteenth time, the new edition (a gold Trek 1000 mile month special edition cap that is fantastically light), the headset system wasn’t allowed to tighten properly. It was so close, too. This actually presents an interesting case study in diagnosing a fork that’s just a millimeter too long, because this didn’t behave like there was a problem at all.

When I tightened the headset up, it would tighten to a point there was zero play in the system. The front brake and rock check was perfect and I couldn’t feel a thing on braking. Normally, front brake and rock, you’ll feel play in the headset if it exists. If it’s minor enough you can’t feel anything like that, if there’s a problem, you’ll feel it when you hit the front brake at speed – it’ll feel like the front end “clunks”, ever so slightly. It’s inevitable… except in this one, rare case. What would happen is the stem bolt would loosen a little bit causing an annoying noise when I hit big bumps. I could tighten everything up and within 20 miles it’d clunk, ever so slightly, when I hit a decent crack in the road. It was maddening. Stranger still, when I removed the stem cap, the fork was cut about a millimeter below the top of the spacer. Everything should have been fine.

Finally, fed up, I went out to my mountain bike and grabbed a 10mm spacer. Sure enough, it held. No more annoying noises. I rode around the last couple of months of the season with a 10mm spacer above my stem, till I was sure there were no more Venge days left in the year to take it apart.

After taking everything apart and cleaning all of the parts (spacers, bearings, everything), I took the fork up to the shop to cut it down. Now, I have a hacksaw and I have tape, but I don’t have three professionals working on other stuff to advise me on the non-ignorant way to do things. In fact, I had it in my head that I would simply buzz the fork down another millimeter or two on the shop’s belt sander. Seemed sane to me. What I wasn’t thinking about was what that belt sander would do to carbon fibers (the Venge’s fork is all carbon fiber except the lower bearing race – it’s amazingly light). It was recommended I tape just below the section I wanted cut off, first as a guide, second to keep the fibers from fraying whilst I cut the top of the fork off. I also had to go slow, creating a groove all the way around the fork end before finishing the cut. I went one better and even slower. On completing the cut, I sanded the edges down, inside and outer.

I headed home and put everything back together, carefully lubing all the right parts, tightened everything down, pumped the tires, and took her out for a test ride. Perfect made perfecter.

As it should be…

Now, let’s talk about my ridiculous need to have my Venge perfect in the first place. Most normal folk would have been just fine leaving that 10mm beautiful carbon fiber spacer atop their stem forever more (I actually thought about buying an 8mm spacer rather than cut the fork top down). In the end, because I had a 5mm spacer below the stem, I simply couldn’t have a 10, or even an 8, above the stem. It had to be a 5. It had to be symmetrical. Had to be.

To thine own self be true, was ever thus. I could have left that 10mm spacer up there. I could have gone with an 8 and your average cyclist would never catch the difference. I’m not your average cyclist, nor are my friends. Every time I threw a leg over the top tube, I’d have a nagging thought at the back of my head saying, “You should have fixed that, you knucklehead”. Friends, some $#!+ just isn’t worth fighting. It took me a couple hours of farting around, two hours I’d have spent on the couch (after my 27-mile ride in below freezing temps). The time couldn’t have been better spent, and now every time I throw my leg over the top tube of my Venge, I’ll think, “I went the extra mile. Thankfully, there’s rarely much traffic on that one.”

Exercise, Fitness, Health and Happiness… The New York Times Finally Finds a Subject It Can Report Objectively On.

A recent report in the New York Times looks at a study conducted to quantify, at least initially, some of the molecular changes that occur in a person’s body after a short burst of exercise. The results of the study are interesting, but not surprising to anyone who’s “laced up” regularly. As I suggested in the Title, we should rejoice… reporters at the Times have finally found a topic they can report objectively on, without bias.

Where I found the report interesting is that the study actually delves into the inner-workings of the body on a molecular level to find out why exercise does what it does.

The study is just an initial look into how the body adjusts to physical activity, but it’s findings are impressive nonetheless:

The scientists then ran the blood samples through a mass spectrometer, a machine that counts and quantifies molecules. The researchers focused on metabolites, which are molecules related to metabolic processes. The label “metabolite” is somewhat arbitrary, but for this study, the researchers focused mostly on molecules that could affect people’s insulin, fat burning, cholesterol, blood sugar and other aspects of cellular fueling.

They found plenty. Of 588 metabolites checked, the levels of more than 80 percent generally grew or dropped during the short rides. To reinforce those findings, the scientists repeated the experiment with another 783 Framingham volunteers, checking their blood before and after exercise for changes in about 200 of the molecules that had been most altered in the first group. Again, these metabolites changed in the same ways as before.

So this, on a molecular level, starts looking into the “why” of the health benefits of exercise.  The question real is, is this work even necessary?  For me, no.  I can take a mad stab at why it was done, though.  I’d guess they’re looking for fitness in a pill.  Even if they could find the magic elixir, I wouldn’t bother with it.  I’d rather get mine naturally, through the use of carbon fiber, aluminum alloy, trace amounts of steel, and rubber.  The old-fashioned way is vastly more gratifying. 

Wait a second… check that… I would take the magic pill and still ride.  Probably in the A Group!  YES!  But the guys in the A Group would be taking it, too, so maybe I’d just take it and stay in the B Group but we’d be faster.  A LOT faster.  Yeah, I like that.  Anyway, you get the point.

If you ask me, I think someone needs to do a study on why carbon fiber can make a grown man go all gaga in a matter of seconds.  I walk into the bike shop and it takes all of 45 seconds and I’ve gotta ask one of the guys for a mop so I can get my slobber off the floor.  And in the age of COVID you start slobbering through your mask like that and all of a sudden people lose their freaking mind!  Sheesh.  People running around with their arms flailing, screaming “COVID Zombie, COVID Zombie!”  It’s not good.

Anyway, COVID Zombies aside, the moral of the story is “who gives a $#!+ about the science? We all know exercise is good. Buy bike. Ride bike. Be happy. The rest is noise.