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Ah, Almost Back to Normal Again

Since I’ve gotten back from the west side of the State, things have slowly gone back to a more “normal” state of affairs. I’m into the office early, which means I’m leaving early as well, and it seems like I’m pulling into the driveway before I know it – I’m home well before 5 pm. My drive is less than 45 minutes (I haven’t had less than a 38 minute drive to work in more than 23 years). Better, I’m able to stay up a little later and sleep in (if you can call it that, and most normal people don’t – I still have my alarm set for 4 am).

I rode what we call the “Deer Loop” with some friends yesterday morning, under utterly perfect conditions. 3-mph wind, not a cloud in the sky, and mercifully cool (low 60’s – perfect starting temp [16.7 C]). When I included “Deer Loop” in my Strava ride title, one of my friends asked in the comments, “Did you bring the deer magnet with you”. I laughed out loud – my buddy, Mike (aka the Deer Magnet) has a funny way of attracting animals so he hits them. He got a deer two years ago and a dog and a squirrel so far this year. I don’t know how many near misses there were, but I was there for a few with deer crossing just in front of us… and I’ve heard of many more than I saw…

Which leads me to the big plus: My mileage is heading in the right direction. Two weeks ago, with the long Fourth of July weekend, I managed to clock in more than 300 miles for the week. Last week, with a normal work schedule I was over 210 miles. I also popped over 4,000 miles for the year last week, so it seems I’ll still be able to have a decent year after the job and our crappy start to the Spring.

In other cycling news, the Trek is in for a paint touch-up. I put a gnarly gouge in the top tube when I had a wrench slip off the headset lock nut. It was bad – and just two days after I put an awesome new Punisher sticker on it, too…

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re really good and looking up. Now if I could just drop about five more pounds! Dammit, they’re a lot harder to take off than put on!

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TNCR: A Hot Time in the Old Town, Tonight Edition

Michigan leaves a lot to be desired.  Our summers are rather short, our winters tend to be a little on the long side, but we do have vast webs of paved roads that receive little traffic.  Our Tuesday Night Club Ride is a great example.  First, I’m sure the locals are accustomed to us by now, but if we get passed by three cars in 30 miles, it’s a pretty busy night.  Come summertime, the wind also dies down to where we won’t even have a breeze some days.  This past week we only had one day where the wind even approached 10-mph.  Otherwise, we were down at 3 to 6-mph.

On Tuesday night, with no wind, you can always bet it’ll be a fast night.  Last night was no exception.

We rolled out just 30 seconds after the A Group and it got lively in a hurry.  I was up front with Mike and his wife, Diane on a tandem.  They’re solid and over the course of our 1.3 mile turn up front we took the speed from an easy 20-mph up to 24 before we took a right turn and headed to the back for a rest.  The remainder of the night was a blur except for the dreaded Shipman Road.  What little breeze there was, right in our face.  Things got a little chippy with some of the weaker riders having a tough time keeping a predictable pace – I was taking short turns up front, but I always tried to get the pace back up over 22 (if riding is chippy, the best thing to do is speed up, not slow down).

After Shipman, though, things seemed to settle down and the speed picked up and stabilized.  Stable, fast speeds with little wind makes for good drafting.  I got rotated to the front a little more than I’d have liked and the sprints were a complete mess (the first one was my fault – I chased after a guy I knew would flame out way before the City Limits sign at 30-ish mph, and I was right.  With a quarter-mile to go, I was out front.  I pushed the pace and left the sign to one of the faster guys who blew right by me.

The final sprint was a bit of a different story, with the same result.  With a half-mile to go, at 26.6-mph, I was the lead out with a train of strong riders behind me.  I took the pace to near 30 (48 km/h) and held it till I was cooked and arm-flicked out.  Some times I’m the sprinter, sometimes I’m the lead out, it is what it is.

We rolled over the line with a solid 22.1-mph (35 km/h) average for the 28-ish mile route.

It was all hi-fives and laughs back in the parking lot… and my work is all but done down in Kalamazoo, so I didn’t have to pack up and hurry home after the ride.

And I got to sleep in this morning.  Oh, was it wonderful.  More later.

Surviving Hell on Earth was a Lesson in Perspective. At the Time It Sucked, but It Turned Out to Be the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.

Nowadays we sell struggle. And pain. And blood and guts. We sell anguish and anger.

My alcoholic, and subsequent recovery, story isn’t anything all that special.  Sure, I got in some trouble and I was facing some serious time for crimes I played a small bit role in, but I’m typically what you call a “high bottom” drunk.  I quit way before things got really bad.

I didn’t do too many hard drugs.  I never shot up.  I never whored myself out to cover my tab with the dealer.  I was never really homeless, if I was close a time or two.  I caught a break going through intensive out-patient treatment when a doctor ran some intake tests on my liver and they came back really bad.  At 22 I had the “liver of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic”.  He said I’d likely be dead of cirrhosis by 30… if I even made it that long.  I drank for another year, but eventually I arrived at the obvious conclusion; I was f***ed.

The 26-year journey from the day I quit has been, at times, a serious struggle.  My first year was a bitch… until they told me that year was a gift – and I found out what, exactly, that meant.  They were right, it was.

After five years, the fog started to lift.  The clouds broke around ten.  At fifteen, it was partly cloudy.  At twenty, the sun was shining.  And at 25, it warmed up in the sunshine.

I truly believe the hardest days of my life are behind me.  The hardest thing I’ll ever do was done at 23-years-old.  Or perhaps, let’s say that if I choose to stay on my current path in life, the hardest thing I’ll ever do was done at the ripe old age of 23…  Should I decide to firmly implant my head in my ass again and drink, the hardest thing will become quitting again.  I know I’ve got another drink in me, I don’t know about another recovery.

So here’s the trick; everything I am has changed.  I believe my Higher Power (God, in my case) granted me grace.  I did something really good with that grace and quit killing myself, and torturing those who loved me (not an easy task as I was).  My attitude and outlook on life has completely changed.  Completely.  I’m on a path that led from hell on Earth to Heaven, to where I’m truly grateful for every day I’m on the right side of the grass, pumping air.

Getting to the point without getting too deep into the weeds, and to put this in a way that anyone can use, my version of hell was bad enough.  I didn’t have to dig any deeper.  My version doesn’t have to be better than or worse than anyone else’s, what matters is that it was enough to get me to see that, after a whole lot of working to make me a better version of me, each day is a gift.  Even the hard days, because as few as they are, they get me to the good (and vastly more plentiful).  I’ve cleaned up who I am to a point that, instead of continually making and cleaning up messes I make, I’m able to concentrate on something higher.  Something better.  I can concentrate on doing more of what made the sun shine.

Because I’m no longer the drunk who was only capable of doing exactly the wrong thing at any given moment.

At the time I was going through it, my first year sucked.  In two through five, I saw that first one as a glorious gift.

I thought I was doing really well in my fifth year sober, till I made it to ten and looked back – then I realized how hard I’d worked and was entirely thankful to have made it as far as I had.

Then came twenty, and I realized I really hadn’t known much at ten, but I’d made a good start of it – and besides, the sun was really shining now.  Things were really clicking.  My job was good, my marriage was great, the kids were good and doing great things… and my recovery was well spent.

Then I hit twenty-five and I realized I had a lot of room for growth, because in that short five years my life had gotten exponentially better… and I know that if I keep doing the right thing at any given matter, it’ll likely continue to get better.  Quitting drinking really sucked at the time, but when I look back at how I’ve changed, it’s the best sucky thing that’s ever happened to me.

And why wouldn’t it keep getting better?  For twenty-six years, since I started working a program of fixing the train wreck that I was, that’s all that has happened; things got better*.  And if I can do it, anyone can.  There’s an instruction manual.  It’s 164 pages long, and they call it the Big Book.  It just takes some want to.  And therein lies the rub.

Better, you don’t have to be a drunk to use the work in that Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to better yourself.  Just take the drinking out of the equation.  Step one:  We admitted that we were powerless, that our lives were unmanageable.  Step two:  Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Step three:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him… and just keep going.

Powerless over what, you ask?  Who cares?  Do you want to get better or don’t you.  Make a decision and roll with it.  Powerless over being happy.  Start there and build on it.  That’s how it works.

*Not easier.  Better.  Big difference.

And Finally, Some Decent Miles to Go with Summertime (and How Sobriety Factors into the Fun)

On one hand, this summer, if you could call it that until two weeks ago, should have been a YUGE letdown. My miles are down, my weight is slightly up, and the weather has just plain sucked. I haven’t even topped 4,000 miles for the year yet, and I’m liking food way more than I should.

On the other hand, I’m on the job of my career and I’m freaking digging it and the pay has been quite nice.

I don’t know what the rest of this year will hold, but beyond the sacrifices, I’m having fun and I’m happy. And that’s what really matters.

Then, out of nowhere, the best cycling weekend yet this year. It was supposed to rain every day, but the worst we got was a popcorn storm for ten minutes, and never while we were on the bikes.  I could have put in so many more miles, though… 75 on Thursday, 40 Friday, another 56 for Saturday, and we’ve got a 100k on tap for today.  If memory serves, I’d have sprinkled in an 80-100 miler in there and at least one of the 40 or 56 mile rides would have been a 100k.  I’m not that guy this year, though.  For the longest time, I feared I would like cycling less if I let off the gas, if I didn’t try to cram absolutely every last mile in.  I was so wrong; I like it more.

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Because I’m not always trying to push max miles out of every ride, my enjoyment of the sport increased and I enjoy each mile much more.  In the end, there’s still no place I’d rather be than on my bike, and the search still continues for the sucker who’ll pay me to ride it.  I’ll let you know when my luck changes.

In the meantime, it’s just another day in paradise on two wheels.

There once was a time when all I could do was think about how I could escape being miserable.  Every day I’d try to figure out how to game the system so I could have just one more day drunk before the house of cards crumbled under the weight of my poor choices.  Today, 26 years without a drink or a drug, and I’m working on making content and happy, happier.  Talk about a difference that’ll put a smile on your face!

My friends, once I embraced that the hardest thing I would ever do in my life occurred 26 years ago, in quitting drinking (and eventually, smoking), once I realized I’d already been through hell and as long as I keep on the right path, I don’t ever have to go back, life became less about survival and more about enjoyment.

Just for today.  Keep quit, no matter what.  Even if your ass falls off… and in the event it does, put it in a paper bag and take it to a meeting.  They’ll show you how they put theirs back on.  There’s only misery at the bottom of that bottle.  It won’t get better this time.  There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Shit, there’s no rainbow.  Because there’s no sunshine.  Just keep quitting.

Best Vacation Evah! And the Diet Started Yesterday.

It’s been quiet over here in Fit Recovery land for a reason… I was away with my wife and kids, and my wife’s family on a cruise to Grand Cayman, Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, Belize (you better Belize it), and Cozumel (Cancun for us).

I didn’t write a thing for a week. I also did no work. For one full week, plus a day, I spent a grand total of 1 minute 13 seconds on the phone. I’ve never been so fortunate on vacation… not that I can remember, anyway.

Sadly, I brought a little more home than some fantastic photos… the food on the cruise was so good I brought home a couple more than a few extra pounds. I’ve got some work to do.

Thankfully, I had a break in the daily rain and got a nice little 18 miler in last evening. I’d skipped breakfast and had a sensible lunch so all that was left was a non-ridiculous dinner. Mrs. Bgddy made her most excellent chili. A bowl and I was off to bed.

It’s good to be back and getting into the swing of things again, but that was one heck of a vacation.

Only a few more weeks on the out-of-town job, so I’m hoping to get back to a more regular schedule soon.

All photos taken by me, with my Galaxy S9 in a Lifeproof case, underwater. I’ve never experienced a leak, though I did wreck the face on a rock on the last excursion of the trip, swimming in a cave… and Lifeproof replaced the face as a part of the warranty. Folks, the quality stands up to the name.

You’d Better Be Fast When…

I’m nervous this may not have been the best idea I’ve ever had… but its badassedness can’t be argued against.

Special thanks to my friend, McMike who gave me the decal after our most awesome Friday Forty in the sun.

TNCR: The Need for Speed Edition

First, allow me the dalliance of commending our B Group of cyclists. We have had our challenges, but I consider myself truly blessed and fortunate to ride with the group I do. What an amazing group of people.

With my two-hour commute I no longer can make the group warm-up. Instead of seven easy miles with a group of five or six, I’m relegated to a quick two miles to spin my legs up. And I’d taken Monday off because I was just plain tuckered out. My legs were not happy when I pulled into the parking lot to await the start.

Jonathan and I took the lead out and slowly got the group up to speed.  I’d just swapped saddles back and forth with the Trek and was pleased to have gotten the Venge’s position perfect without the need for a fitting (good thing, too, it would have been a long 30 miles had I gotten it wrong).  I’d gotten the impression I was good on the short warm-up, but you never really know until you’re under full power….

We were at a perfect 75° with a barely there breeze, and after the first mile the pace… well, it really wasn’t that impressive.  We’d taken it up to 22 but the group slowed up a bit.  There were a few fast miles, but there were quite a few slow as well.  We spent the first two-thirds of the ride below our normal average, but we ticked up a bit from 20.3-mph to 20.8.  We got through the hills well with a little bit of a tailwind and were sitting just below 21 with 8 miles and some change to go.

The next eight miles were blistering, and as much fun as I’ve had on a bike this year.  I didn’t take either sprint, but I was a hell of a lead-out for each one.  I took the pace to 30-mph on the first and just over 30 for the second after sitting on Dave and Sherry’s tandem wheel.  The final few miles were some of the most exceptional cycling we’d ever done as a B Group – we averaged over 26-mph.  We finished with a 21.8-mph average (some had 21.9).

And like that, we were done.  Garmins were switched off or over to new cool-down rides, we sat up, and took it easy for the last mile back.

When we pulled into the parking lot I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be a part of the group we’ve got.  At the same time, I was happy for all of the work I’d put in to not only be a part of that group, but to be a contributing member.  My friends, there’s nothing safe about shooting down the road at 30-mph on bicycles with only inches between wheels.  It’s not for everyone.  For those who can enjoy it, the experience is amazing.  I’m smiling just writing this post.

It’s about as good as it gets.