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Sobriety is ALWAYS a Longshot… But It’s a Beautiful Thing When You Work It.

My name is Jim, and I’m a recovered alcoholic. I have recovered from a seemingly helpless state of mind. I was, at one time, so depraved, it’s hard to believe I was that guy.

I am a small miracle. Anyone who makes it a year is. I once couldn’t make it 24 hours without a drink or the shakes would start.

The first year was a gift. The next four were hard work. The clouds started to break up at ten years. Our first daughter was born at eleven. Our second was born at 14. The clouds parted at fifteen. At twenty, the clouds dissipated and it was time for the flippin’ sunscreen, baby. The last seven years have been glorious, though with some challenges.

It wasn’t that the years before 20 were bad, far from it. They were challenging, though, through the looking back glass. I was learning how to live a sober, clean life, and sometimes I bumped heads with good orderly direction.  Even so, life seemed good enough it was often tough to wrap my head around it.

The easiest way to describe the last couple of decades and change is like this: Each year sober was a new gift. I had no clue how good life would eventually get, so I never felt like I was shortchanged. It just kept getting better.  And that’s the idea.

Every year, since 2012 when I wrote the following post, I like to link to it around my anniversary.  It is, without question, the best thing I’ve ever written.  Please click here and give it a read:

November is a special month for me. I celebrate every single day of the entire month. I celebrate having the ability to have a wife and two fantastic daughters. I celebrate being on the right side of the grass, pumping air. I celebrate being able to love my wife….

[Tap the link to read on]

On 27 Years Sober; A Celebration of Sorts, But a Trip Through the Darkness, First…

From the Big Book, page 151-152

The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did-then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen-Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand!

Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.” As ex-problem drinkers, we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.

Been there. I’ve got the t-shirt, and worn it to tatters.

It’s been a long time since I felt the cold desperation of my jumping-off place. I haven’t forgotten the feeling, though. I remember it like I was there yesterday.

There’s a better, brighter future for we alcoholics. There is a new freedom, a new happiness… a new peace.

If you’re struggling with alcohol, walk into a meeting and sit down. If you can’t picture life without alcohol, the problem is with the eyes through which you look. It’s not the process, or the program. Given a chance, your perception will change over time. It does, if we allow it.

When I was sitting in those shoes, I was the problem. It was my eyes that were inadequate to see a way out, let alone see a way to happiness and freedom. I did get there, though. One day at a time.

To start, though, what’s important is that a leap of faith is far better than a leap.

I made it to the other side. I can see the sun shining and it feels good. And if I can get there, anyone can.

For those who are new, let me be the first to welcome you to a new and glorious way of life. Freedom and happiness are not only possible, they’re promised. If we work for them.

And if nobody’s told you they love you today, let me be the first.

Good Lord, it’s good to be free. Join me. I’ll enjoy the company.

Of Course eBikes Are Cheating… But They’re Not At The Same Time.

I read an article on The Verge with a Title that said just the opposite of what my initial Title statement says… then went on to show that my Title is right.

Of course eBikes are cheating – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Imagine a middle-aged cyclist, late 40’s.  He’s quite fast, but knows how to enjoy his active recovery days.  His father, meanwhile, is sedentary but not averse to getting off the couch.  He buys an eBike and all of a sudden, straight out of the box, he can ride with his son.

I know this guy.  I ride with him on a regular basis, and you should have heard him talk about riding a bike with his dad.  That’s not cheating.  That’s a small miracle.  That’s using an eBike for good.

How about another case?  An older cyclist who’s begun to slow down decides to buy an eBike so she can keep up with her younger group?  Good Lord, folks, if ever there was a good use for an eBike, that’s it!

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No, where we’re going to run into trouble is on Strava, where you’ve got eBike riders trying to pass themselves off as natural cyclists.  This will be your normal braggart who, instead of shaving a few miles off a 30-mile ride to say he came in first, will say that he handed it to the A Group, whilst failing to include that he was on a $17,000 eBike.  Actually, we’d probably have to go with the B Group in our case, because they don’t make an eBike that fast yet.

I actually know a guy like this, only substitute a fully fared bullet trike for the eBike.  He took every local Strava segment there was until a friend flagged him and Strava stripped him of all his KOM’s (rightly so).  Sadly, there are those people out there.  Another friend of mine rode with a guy on a gravel ride a couple of months ago.  Later that day, he noticed the guy on Strava, bragging, “not to toot my own horn, but I was the first one back”… he’d failed to mention that to do so, he shaved seven miles off the ride with a shortcut.

That’s cheating.  Sadly, those people are out there.  While they do, momentarily, piss me off, eventually I get around to feeling sorry for them.  Imagine being so shallow that you’d resort to cheating and lying so you could feel better about yourself.  Friends, that’s sad.  And sick.  People like that need prayers – and that’s a good thing, because I need the practice.

Junk Miles Versus Training: How to Get the Most Out of Your Body on the Bike

This post is for those who want to be faster on the bike – and I mean fast.  If you don’t, if you believe putzing around the neighborhood is for you, then you may not need this post.  On the other hand, it can’t hurt.  Either way, what’s most important is that you’re smiling when you’re on (and off) your bike – if putzing around puts a smile on your face, fantastic.  If putzing leaves you wanting a little more, read on.  Fair warning though, I’m not about to beat around the bush.

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Speed on a bicycle does not come on its own, and it rarely comes freely.  The faster I ride, the harder I have to be willing to work at it.  I can’t remember the formula, but there’s a lot of talk out there about how the force required to push the wind doubles as your speed increases.  I’m here to tell you, I know exactly what that feels like.  Anyone who’s tried to get their bike up to 30 or 35-mph (48-56 km/h) on flat ground knows this feeling intimately.

There once was a time, 14-mph on a mountain bike over four miles was about max effort for me.  That was long ago.

My friends, we are going to discuss an uncomfortable phrase for a minute.  It’s uncomfortable for some because those who log lots of miles like this have a tendency to think they’re working a lot harder than they are.  Then they wonder, after putting in all of those miles, why they struggle to hang with the fast crowd.  Pointing out that it takes more than turning the cranks to get off the porch and ride with the big dogs is… uh, touchy.  And heavens to Murgatroyd, we wouldn’t want touchy!

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The phrase is “Junk miles”.  Junk miles are those miles ridden where you can easily hold a conversation, speaking freely in full sentences for hours on end.  Your ability to ride fast will be directly proportional to the amount of junk miles you put in.  This isn’t to say junk miles aren’t allowed, they’re absolutely necessary.  We simply must make sure the junk miles have their place and aren’t confused with what is needed to increase one’s overall speed and fitness.  They also like to call this “zone two”.

It’s a lot like eating junk food.  Junk food is certainly fun to eat, especially when you’re clocking 300 miles a week.  Sadly, the more you eat, the heavier you get, the worse you ride.  Well, junk miles work on the same principle – minus the extra weight.  Oh, sure, there are those who like to claim cruising around in “zone two” is better for weight loss, but that horse-pucky never worked for me, anyway.  And it certainly won’t make one fast.  It will, however, get me used to riding a lot slower than I’m capable of.

In other words, if I want to be fast, I have to work at it.  And as it turns out, a lot.

First, I’m not without sympathy.  Junk miles are awesome fun.  My buddy, Mike and I went for a cruise a couple of weeks ago – we averaged 17.3-mph over 35 miles – and it was a blast.  Not only could I have pulled the entire ride, including into the wind, I easily could have averaged another couple of miles an hour faster… by myself… but it’s the end of the season and it’s time to sit back and enjoy a little R & R miles before the snow flies and the real training picks up again in January to get ready for spring.

So, the following is how I balance the good miles with the junk miles.

First of all, I’m not a big believer in pushing hard every day, year ’round.  That’s a fantastic way to burn yourself out or worse, injure yourself.  I admire those who can, I just prefer to take it easy for a couple of months at the end of the year.  Usually November and December are all easy miles, mainly indoors on the trainer.

The real works starts January 1st.  I eat better, and I work hard on the trainer building up for March.  To start, I do hard workouts every other day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, rinse and repeat (sometimes I’ll ride easy Sunday if I’m feeling tired).  Once in a while, I’ll take a day off, and the other odd days are easy spinning trainer rides to loosen my legs up.  I do that for two weeks.  Then I switch to a harder gear for part of the hard workouts for a week.  Then, the next week, a harder gear still for the tough workouts.

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February is a continuation of January, but with a still harder gear (my highest gear) added in.  Same easy days, too, by the way.  I’ll also work in some intervals during February, steadily increasing the intensity of my workouts until we head outside.

In-season, say from April through October, my schedule is simple.  Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday are the hard effort days.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are some varying form of less intensive cycling than the harder days.  Let’s say 17-18-mph is easy, I’ll do that one or two days, depending on how my legs feel.  The remaining are between 18 & 19.  The fast days are 19-20 over the weekend and 21-23 on Tuesday night.

Monday and Wednesday are what could be “junk miles”, but they’re necessary rest for a working stiff who likes to spend an hour a day on the bike whether he needs it or not (or more, especially on the weekends).

A friend of mine who is currently trying to get his pro card enjoys saying, nobody loves going slow like a pro.  Some of his workouts show it, too.  The trick is, his hard workouts would leave me hyperventilating in a heap on the side of the road.  I try to follow the same principle, I just don’t bother with the panting heap on the side of the road part.  I’m old enough to be his dad… and I have no desire to work hard enough to be that fast.

In short, to wrap this post up, own who you are and how you want to ride.  If you want to be faster, put in the work.  Don’t think that by riding slow everywhere you go, you will magically become fast.  You’ll be disappointed in your results.  Every time.

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Day 259 Days of Recovery from Procrastination

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I’ve never seen anyone drink their way to happiness…

Or, as the linked post explains, I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate themselves into happiness.

Never thought of it quite so simply, but it sure does work.  Please take a moment and check the linked post out.

“Treating Boys Like Defective Girls” in School; Boys Need More Time in Motion, Study (FINALLY) Finds.

As a young boy, I did not sit still for long.  I’m tempted to use the word “couldn’t”.  In order to get me to eat, my mom would cut up a hot dog, put it on the plate on one end of the coffee table in the living room and let me do laps, eating a piece every lap or two.  When I went to school, they didn’t know how to handle my rambunctiousness so I was held back a year.  School was an environment that would only let me move a half-hour a day during school.  I went from hot (dog) laps to sitting still all day.

My story began more than four decades ago – and the prescription for me wasn’t “keep him moving”, it was “give him Ritalin” to get me compliant.  My mom refused and worked with me all through school to help me conform to a world that wouldn’t let me move.  I was told, from four-years-old, that it was me.  That I was the problem.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently tried to document whether boys actually achieve less in school when they’re restricted from running around and being physically active.

They studied 153 kids, aged 6 to 8, and tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day. Sure enough, according to a report by Belinda Luscombe in Time, the less “moderate to vigorous physical activity” the boys had each day, the harder it was for them to develop good reading skills:

The more time kids … spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do math.

Now here’s the best part – and this is what really fries my bacon:

The results didn’t apply to girls. I know that sounds sexist; the researchers offered a few possible explanations. Maybe there simply are physiological differences—or maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but they were better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate.

And for that reason, other researchers say, girls are rewarded more than boys in the classroom.

“Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

The emphasis above is mine.  What is sexist is expecting boys to behave like girls and treating them as “defective girls” in school if they act according to their nature.  Now, I’m sure all of the open-minded people out there who have the delusion that sexism only works one way will complain that what the study found is not right – maybe the sample size wasn’t big enough so more study is needed, but I lived it.  I’m here to tell you, if you multiply this out over time, the ramifications are devastating.

And, according to the article linked above, it gets worse:  The punishment for being rambunctious is more time sitting still which compounds the problem, especially for boys, rather than fix it.  It appears as though there might be hope.  One school in Texas has implemented four recess periods into the school day…

Result? Students are “less fidgety and more focused,” one teacher said. They “listen more attentively, follow directions, and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything.”

Well imagine that.

Each Day is A Gift… In Recovery. Outside, They Tend to Resemble Something Less Stellar.

A radio personality here in Michigan likes to start his broadcast off every day by saying, “Each day is a gift”.

Recently I’ve been on a kick, really enjoying the day for what it is – and with everything that’s been going on lately, that hasn’t been easy.  One of my favorite Uncle’s died last week, my wife’s stepmom’s brother was diagnosed with ALS, and we had another tragedy to deal with that makes the other two pale in comparison – and I won’t be able to write about that for at least a year, if ever.  We told our daughters, after protecting them all week, about that one and they were devastated.  My youngest spent the whole weekend in some stage of tears.

Recovery was never touted as being easy by the old-timers when I first walked in the door.  Nobody says it gets easier.  It gets better.  And it did get better because got better.  On the other hand, I always remember, on a daily basis, exactly what can happen if I decide to pick up a drink.  I can have my misery back any time I want it.

Sadly, I see people choose the misery on a regular basis.  It’s heartbreaking, what can happen – and how quickly we slide down the scale.  There’s no fighting gravity, though.

The only chance I have to feel that today really is a gift is to stay on the path.  And so I shall.