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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.
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:
- Don’t get fat.
- Stay fast.
- Stay strong enough to be in the upper crust of the B Group.
- 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.
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 $#!+ about the science? We all know exercise is good. Buy bike. Ride bike. Be happy. The rest is noise.
I have long believed in simple, meaningful mindfulness exercises over the trite meaningless exercises spouted off about from hear to eternity all over the internet. If breathing would have helped curb my insanity, I’d have been a breathing fool, huffing and puffing my problems away.
That mindless pablum works for those with minor issues. For those, like me, who have real issues, we need real help. Concrete steps that will stop the racing mind.
My favorite tip from my early days of recovery and work on calming my mind was advice I realized on my own in a rare moment of clarity: I don’t have to treat every thought I have as though it is valid. I’m not responsible for the first thought, I am for the second.
By allowing myself that first thought as a freebie, I could simply say, “Man, that thought was bat-$#!+ crazy” and discard it as if I was throwing away a snot-filled tissue. Think about that a second… who pulls out a gnarly tissue to contemplate its usefulness? Unless you’re slightly nuts, nobody. You pitch it in the garbage without a second thought, lest you try to use it again and end up with a booger on your face.
This line of thinking came from a special I’d listened to on dreams. The doctor being interviewed explained that dreams are the brain’s way of taking out the garbage. That made sense… and if the brain had garbage to take out, what garbage was there?
It only made sense to follow the natural progression and connection that some thoughts are garbage and can be thrown out without contemplation. Thoughts ranging from using again to some really dark $#!+ I can’t politely put in writing (It’s been decades, my friends, since I’ve grappled with thoughts so difficult, but I did. And I won.). They could simply be discarded like a wadded up, snotty tissue. A simple, “Man, that thought was nuts“, with LOTS of practice, became enough to let a dark thought go that would have occupied my mind for days, even weeks.
You get enough nuts rattling around up there, eventually there’s going to be trouble and it becomes difficult to sort through the chatter with all that banging going on up there.
That simple exercise and recognition, very early in recovery, completely changed my life.
Breathing never would have stopped that hamster wheel. I needed deeper work and understanding before the easy, low-hanging fruit could be dabbled in. Nowadays, breathing is great and works a treat. Back then it was a pea shooter at a freighttrain.
And so, with that, when I happen on a real post that can do real good to help someone who is sick like I was, I have to share it (and along with it, a fairly long story of my own).
If you need to shut the hamster wheel down and struggle with it, click the link above for a chance at relief. And remember this above all else: you’re not necessarily sick, the thoughts you entertain are. And now you know you don’t have to entertain them anymore.
Look at the bright side, my friends; less than a month-and-a-half to go…. 2020 is almost over!
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. Happy belated Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. Have a wonderful day to my European and UK friends.
Second, a trigger (heh) warning: If you hate a person’s human right to be free, you will hate the following statement. Move along, lest you become apoplectic at reading words that mean something.
One small reminder this grateful season. The plaque on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be lorded over by a vast sea of clamoring, knuckleheaded politicians and bureaucrats who believe “do as I say, not as I do” is an institution more sacred than the Founding Documents of the United States of America.”
If you don’t respect your freedom, don’t expect anyone else will.
This apolitical message has been a public service announcement from Fit Recovery.
Eat, drink (wisely) & be merry. And, for God’s sake, go for a bike ride, run, or walk before dinner (if possible). It’s a proven fact: physical activity makes dinner taste better.
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.
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.
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.