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Sobriety, and what to Do when the Wheels Fall Off…

I have been sober for more than 25 years. Specifically, 303.82 months. 9,248 Days. Twenty-four Hours at a time, 221,956 Hours.

Wednesday, as things go in life sometimes, the wheels fell off. Several things went horribly wrong in the space of just a few hours – enough to panic me a little bit.

So, after all of that time and practice in sobriety, what does a person do when the wheels fell off?

Well, I called my sponsor first. I shared with him what was going on and we kicked around a plan for how I would handle things going forward. We talked about the steps available to me to work at the problem, followed by how lucky I was to have the problems that I do, compared with the challenges I had when I was using and shortly after finding recovery. Then, and for the dominating amount of time in the ten minute conversation, we talked about gratitude for always being able to find a way forward with the program (and in my case, with the help and guidance of a Higher Power). I hung up the phone in a much better space.

Now for the important part. I called one of my sponsees who is falling by the wayside and talked about how he was doing and what we could do to right the ship, because any recovering drunk who is experiencing difficulties in life should be working with someone less fortunate. The benefits are too numerous to bother listing, I’ll just say “it’s what we do”.

I slept like a baby last night… don’t even remember falling asleep, I just drifted off around 9pm and woke to the alarm. Ready to go.

To shorten this post and the ultimate answer up to a couple of sentences; What do you do when you’re an old-timer in the program and the wheels fall off?

The same thing you do when you’re a week sober and holding on by your fingernails: You call your sponsor, work some steps, and roll on. Eventually you gain something that’s worth passing on and you do that too, you pass it on.

Why does that work? Who f***in’ cares, it does. So do it.

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Just How Much Cycling is Too Much Cycling for the Body to Handle?

I know, you read that Title and thought to yourself, “Well self, I’m in for an even-handed look at exactly how much cycling is too much for the body to handle”. See, that’s because you know me as an even-handed, level-headed kind of guy.

The answer is very simple, and while I could give you a very simplistic algebraic formula to figure out just how much the body can handle, a lot like the equation to figure out how many bikes one needs, it ends up working out to; more miles than you’re currently riding.

That’s neither even-handed nor level-headed. It isn’t right, either – though it’s close.

The proper number of bikes in one’s stable is said to be N+1, N being the number of bikes currently in one’s stable…

My friends, I don’t care what equation you use, that’s enough bikes for someone who doesn’t have a personal mechanic to take care of all of those freaking bikes! Once you figure in my wife’s four bikes, my kid’s bikes… well folks, at some point you just have to say someone can stick that formula where the sun don’t shine!

The same could should be said for some over-simplified formula that says dryly, “Um, more miles” – as true as that could be, there’s no need to be obnoxious about it, eh? See, mileage is finicky. If I can ride twelve miles a day, surely I could do fifteen, and if I could do fifteen, why not twenty? Then let’s kick it up a notch on the weekends, and shoot for between 120 and 160 total miles for Saturday and Sunday.

How about days off? I’ve taken two so far this year. January 15th and last Friday for my wife’s birthday. Simply put, I don’t burn out (or at least haven’t yet). On the other hand, I’d rather not find out what it takes to burn out…

I would argue all day long that early in one’s foray into cycling, days off are a necessity. Building one’s fitness up, and more important, getting one’s bikes set up to work for their body, taking time off helps the body transform until one doesn’t need time off any longer. I simply don’t need days off like I used to, nor would most people.

I got this wacky idea a few years ago that if there were people who could ride 70,000+ miles in a year, riding as many as 200 miles a day, each and every day, why couldn’t I ride fifteen or twenty without days off? The pros, in the middle of the biggest bike race in the world, still spin on a trainer for a few hours on their rest days (two in the 21-day race)… What is all of this hub-bub about days off?

My friends, put simply I have been unable to find my limits because there aren’t enough hours in a day.

While I do run into tired days and days that are packed with too much to shoehorn in a ride, it’s rare that I am required to take a day for physical reasons. For the tired days I simply ride slower than normal, say 20-25% slower, and I’m fine.

Now, for those who have stuck around this long, I’m going to go somewhere dark, somewhere I normally won’t tread…. When we read tips and articles related to fitness, almost to a ridiculous degree, rest days are pushed as a matter of requirement yet we hear so often of people who push themselves to extremes – why the disparity?

It’s either, I need to take between one and three days a week off, or there are people out there who can go 70,000 miles in a year – or the pros who can go 21 of 23 days at close to max effort and still choose to spin their legs up on their two rest days. What gives?!

For other activities like running, lifting weights, activities high on impact, there’s no doubt the body needs recovery time. For cycling? My friends, if attention is paid to proper nutrition, electrolyte replacement, active recovery days and above all else, bike set-up and equipment, days off go from “I need a day off” to “I’ll take a day off next week”.

My answer is, “I don’t know, how much time do you have?”

I’ll leave you on this note; Many people like to say “listen to your body”. While I don’t disagree, when it comes to cycling I would add a little “don’t sell yourself short” to the saying: “Listen to your body, just make sure it knows you’re the boss.”

The Dirty Little Secret of the Tree Huggin’ Hipster Crowd: They’re only Happy if They’re telling You how You’re Doing it Wrong. And now they want Your Bicycle.

Trigger (heh) warning.  Hang on Baby Jesus, this is gonna get bumpy.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

Here we go…  My Google feed is finally getting around to figuring out that I’m a little more interested in bicycle news than today’s ignorant liberal political rubbish.  So what did my Google feed crap out at me?  Liberal bicycle political rubbish.  Dammit.

The second paragraph gets right into it:

In all the excitement to proclaim bicycles the answer to congested roads, polluted city air and our own health, the materials used to manufacture those bikes often get overlooked.

Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I predicted this years ago.  My one mistake was in a lack of understanding why and it’s the why that’s important.   The author goes immediately into explaining why we shouldn’t be riding on a carbon fiber frame, and then why we should choose bamboo in its stead.

Here is a photo of the bike, and I use that term loosely, used to showcase bamboo bikes for the article:

Bamboo Bike.jpg What an ugly, misshapen piece of junk… and she only paid $835 to build it.

What’s interesting is the amount of deception (or perhaps it’s ignorance but I have my doubts) the author uses to frame his argument.  For example:

It’s also incredibly wasteful. Most people replace a racing bike every three years, adding to carbon fiber scrap, says James Marr, founder of the Bamboo Bicycle Club and a former wind turbine engineer.

Did you get that?  A wind turbine engineer?  Windmill anyone?

Personally, I own two carbon fiber bikes, a 2013 and a 1999 and my wife owns a 2014… Let’s see, my buddy Mike, a 2003 and a 2014… The point is, I know of only three carbon fiber frames, warrantee claims all, that were ever discarded between all of my friends (and we’re talking upwards of 20 friends and dozens of bikes) and none were as soon as three years.  The statement simply doesn’t make sense.  Who would scrap a $2,000 to $10,000 (frame value from $1,500 to $7,000) bike in a few years?  Folks, nobody – and I mean nobody, scraps a bike every three years, let alone most people.  The average lifespan of a carbon frame is better than steel or titanium and vastly longer than aluminum.

Maybe we should look at the source of that data, though… the founder of the Bamboo Bicycle Club.  Now, I could see getting rid of that bamboo piece of junk in the photo above after a few days but there’s no way I’d give up my Venge or my 5200.  Even if I did, I’d sell the frame off rather than scrap it!  To suggest otherwise is one of two things, disingenuous or dishonest.  Take your pick.

Look, I could bother with going through the rest of the article but the whole thing leans in that particular direction – disinformation from tree huggin’ hippies which leads us to the obvious conclusion that we should be using bamboo to build our bikes as long as we “rel[y] on production standards, for example avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and ensuring natural forest is not cleared for plantations.

Okay, so as long as we don’t use a method that creates reliable bamboo and we grow it on the moon, we’re good…  We’ll just gloss over, for now, the urethane coating used to shine up the bamboo on that ugly bastard in the photo above, and the epoxy used to lash the pieces of bamboo together.  I’m sure they’re produced from iceberg lettuce fibers or something.

SO, in conclusion, the hipster author of the article wants us to ride ugly, creaky, slow, impossibly heavy bikes that will have a shelf-life a quarter that of a carbon fiber bike because?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Because some people can’t be happy unless they’re making everyone else miserable with their restrictive, fascist ideas of how everyone else should live.  Too harsh?  Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

Hipsters these days are nothing special, nor are they creative.  They simply like to come up with ways to make a name for themselves by pointing out how everyone else should live, thereby proving that, because they can see the intricacies in their ideas, they are better than you.

Because Tom can see that making a bike out of carbon fiber is a messy process, even though carbon bikes are vastly safer than that homemade piece of shit shown above (especially at 60 mph), we should all ride in a way that Tom sees fit (slow, with no excitement whatsoever) so we can all be “sustainable” and sit by the bamboo bike bonfire singing kumbaya.  He’s smart, after all, and we should all bend to his will because he is.  The fact that he’s willing to bend the truth to prove it is just a bonus.

My friends, do the opposite of what the author of that article proposes.  Go out and buy the most expensive, lightest carbon fiber (or steel, or aluminum, or titanium) bike you can reasonably afford and ride the wheels off of it.  Not to get groceries or to save gas or CO2 (which you exhale with every second or third pedal stroke), though feel free, but ride a bike because it’s fun.  If you want to play Don Quixote with global warming, go right ahead, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re better than anyone else for that choice…

20180131_124641
My middle finger to do-gooder tree huggin’ hippies? Not quite, they’re not that important.

I would have to kick my own ass if I were pretentious enough to suggest we should all be building bikes out of bamboo.  People who consistently seek to influence others, bending reality and truth in the process, should be teased often and repeatedly, relegated to the lower levels of human existence.  They are naval lint.  They are a vile, fun-hating group.

So, from all of us fun-loving, happy people to you; do shut it.

This has been a public service announcement.

 

As the Weight Burns: Cycling ROCKS! Part 6,315.4

It never ceases to amaze me, that little weight drop when the outdoor miles begin after the big thaw…. Chuck went to Arizona for a month and it appears he sent us some nice weather.

Saturday was a peach of a 32 miler, Sunday was way too windy for cycling, and I played a little hooky at lunch yesterday because it was almost 50 degrees.  The sun was so brilliant, I thought I was in the wrong state.

If you remember that photo of our front yard half-flooded the other day, the photo above shows that the rain soaked into the ground pretty well.  Let’s just say our water table is replenished.  After yesterday’s short lunch time ride I showered up and got dressed, only to realize I needed a belt.  As long as I choose my food wisely, cycling is like cheating.  Just one more reason to love riding – cycling ROCKS!

The Biggest Hurdle to Clear in Continuous Recovery isn’t the Drink or Drug…

If you’re new to recovery, in recovery, or struggling a little bit with your recovery, grab a cup of coffee and stick around a few minutes.  This one isn’t short, but it gets somewhere good.

I follow a lot of recovery blogs – I’ve also unfollowed as many, or more… and the unfollows are all due to a personal flaw of mine.  I find it difficult to sit back and watch someone blindly walk through their recovery and fail, only to blame that failure on a symptom of the problem.  Worse is to watch someone continuously put themselves into positions that make failure inevitable, let alone more likely.

My problem is that when I decided to quit, I didn’t mess around.  Even at 22 years old, barely old enough to drink legally in the USA, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, my drinking career had come to its inglorious end.  That didn’t come immediately, though.  I was sent to inpatient treatment at a working farm (back when they detoxed you right, I was still hungover, with alcohol in my system, when they sent me to the pigsty to shovel pig $#!+.  Cold turkey, baby).  The day of my intake, I fully planned on doing my time in treatment, just long enough to get out of trouble with the law, to return to my drinking.  Two weeks in and I’ve still got the shakes, night sweats, nausea… That’s when I knew if I kept drinking, what was left of my existence would suck.  I’m one of those lucky few whose liver can’t keep up with my stomach and melon.  Based on liver enzyme readings, doctors gave me till I was 30 for my liver to completely shut down if I kept drinking as I was.  Folks, dead at thirty.

So, that brings us to my decision to quit, to really quit.  I was fortunate enough to not involve my ego in that decision – I didn’t care what I had to do, I just wanted the pain to stop (mental and physical, remember, I’m going cold turkey).  This is the beauty of doing things the hard way, my friends.  By relieving the symptoms of detox with drugs, you lessen, even cheapen, the experience of the detox.  My detox lasted weeks and it was f***ing miserable.  There’s no way I wanted to go through that again.  The fear of reliving my detox helped to keep me sober.  If it’s not as painful, it’s not as big a deterrent to picking up a drink again.  Anyway, my ego…  the one thing that I knew when I quit was that I knew nothing.  I had no clue how to stay sober.  I couldn’t make it more than a few days with my best effort, so I’d do whatever they told me to do.  I’d have stood on my head in the corner if that would have done any good (though I didn’t make that public knowledge, lest someone take advantage of it for a good laugh).  They handed me a book and said the instructions for how to stay sober are on the first 164 pages.  Do that and you’ll have a chance, so I did.

I also didn’t have a major problem with “the whole God thing”.  Let’s just say I was comfortable with not knowing anything – even at 22 when we know everything.  I considered myself a “recovering Catholic” right from the beginning.  I didn’t get the whole “fire and brimstone” God that I’d been taught about since I was a kid, so I took baby steps and I talked about my hang-ups… then, because I’d put my ego on the shelf, I actually listened to others who had figured that out already, and I tried to do what they did.  Eventually I came up with a concept of God that worked for me – that didn’t require me to stand on a hill with a trumpet, extolling God (in fact, I often have a problem with God’s cheerleading squad – they’re just as insufferable as the tiny minority who are anti-God and loud).  However you choose to look at it, I made a deal with God on the day I decided, for real, to quit drinking.  I thought, “God, I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll give this recovery thing everything I’ve got, if you’ll help me”.

That was it, nothing more, and the weight that was removed was immeasurable.  Well, immeasurable at least until I did a Fifth Step, that was so awesome I still can’t quantify it without sounding like a USA Figure Skating announcer (ridiculously over-the-top enthusiastic).

Sometime after leaving treatment, and with a full desire to continue my sobriety, I walked into a bar with my six-month coin.  Actually, it wasn’t any bar, it was my bar.  My stomping grounds.  I can’t remember why I went in there, it wasn’t nefarious and it wasn’t so I’d be tempted – in fact, it wasn’t even at night… Anyway, I spoke with the owner for a bit, and let him know I’d quit and wouldn’t be around anymore.  He said, and I can still remember this 25 years later, “Wow, I didn’t know you had a problem”.  All I could think was, “Wow, you’re not very perceptive.”  A short while later (a couple of months maybe) I was at a bar across the street with a good friend from school, celebrating his birthday with a local police officer friend of his…  They had beers, I had a near beer.  I’d been sober for going on eight months and drank that near beer without issue.  Then I ordered another.  I drank that one half-down and froze.  I stood up, apologized and said I had to go.  I left some cash on the table and walked out the door.

The infinitesimal amount of alcohol in a non-alcoholic beer triggered something in my melon that took me straight back to the day before I went to treatment.  I was scared.  I drove to an outpatient treatment center I’d been through a couple of years earlier and asked to see my old counselor.  She saw me and I explained what had happened.  She explained that I had been as close to a relapse as a person could get without actually relapsing.  Let’s just say I understood.  I thought I’d been doing good.  After some analysis with that counselor, though, I found that I’d been falling away for almost a month and a half.  I called my sponsor on the way home.

That conversation was interesting.  He gave me a few pages to read from the Big Book and asked me how I parked my car, whether I pulled into a spot nose first or whether I backed in.  I told him I pulled in nose first.  He said I should back in to every parking spot for the next month and that he’d tell me why after the month was up.

I did.  For a month I backed into every parking spot I could.  At the end of the month he let me in on why.  He said, Jim, I had you back into parking spots for a month because it was easy and if you weren’t willing to do something that easy without complaint, there’s no way you’d be willing to do what it takes to stay sober.  It was more than fifteen years before I found a reason to walk into a bar again, and that time it was with a sober friend who also happened to be my salesman from work… and that was the last time I was in a bar.

This goes back to that “stand on my head in the corner” thing.  Most people, especially nowadays, would question backing into a parking spot to stay sober.  They’d say it was stupid and useless and tell me how stupid I am for requiring such a stupid thing…  All the while, proving exactly why they can’t stay sober and keep relapsing.

Motherfucker, I said stand on your head in the corner and it’ll help you stay sober.

It did me.  Folks, my biggest hurdle in the way of my recovery was me.

 

I Ride 120 Miles a Week in the Off-season and I still Have to Pass on a Donut in the Morning

I walk into the gas station for a cup of coffee to sip on for the trip to the office… and there it sits, looming in the corner, whispering sweet nothings at me – it’s the donut display.

Of course it’s not whispering anything to me, the donut display case, because donut display cases don’t whisper.  They don’t talk, they don’t wink, they don’t do anything humans do.  They just sit there and, with those beautiful rolled and deep-fried pieces of sugar-coated chunks of goodness, look good.

The whispering and temptation are all in my melon.

And you’d think, after all of this time, after all of the years, the thousands of posts, millions of words, 45,259 miles, the diets to stay at my riding weight… you’d think it’d get easier, right?

But do you think it’s easier or harder to walk by the donut display in the morning without reaching in and grabbing a cruller after all of that?  At this point, who really cares?  It is what it is.

As I get older, it’s almost comical how much more careful I have to be with my diet – it also doesn’t help that my daughter and I have become Food Network junkies and actually try recipes now…  Eating boring food isn’t such a big deal, but when food becomes vibrant, excellent, even restaurant quality at times… well, pushing away from the table becomes a little trickier – especially when you take into account my ridiculously active lifestyle.

Still, as the saying goes, “you gotta dance with the chick who brung ya” (actually it’s a bit more crass than that, but you get the idea).

Things could be worse, though.  Taken in context, this little problem isn’t even a blip on the screen.  I’ll walk into the gas station this morning, plop my buck on the counter and walk out with my cup of coffee – and maybe I’ll flip the bird to that donut display.  One thing is for certain, I’ll be walking out without a cruller.

No matter how crazy life is, mine is still really awesome, and being fat would make it suck a whole lot.  It doesn’t get any easier, I just have more to lose…

Fighting Weight is One Pound Away, and Three Months Early.

I’ve been on a fairly radical diet for a couple of weeks now. It’s radical in its simplicity, of course, certainly nothing special. Here, scooch in closer… I’ll whisper it to you.

I don’t eat much. An apple and banana for breakfast and a power bar for luch, then I eat a sensible dinner.

To break it down, I’ve got 100 calories each for the apple and the banana. 300 for the granola bar, and figure 1,000 to 1,200 calories for dinner. Do the math, that’s 1,700 calories a day.

My intake, adjusted for my active lifestyle and that it’s winter, is 2,750 calories, give or take. That’s a deficit of 1,000 calories a day over 14 days… 14,000 calories /3,500 is 4.

Here’s the problem: That first two weeks sucks. Getting used to limiting lunch to a few hundred calories is not easy or fun.

Another thing that sucks is that I’m not a happy fellow after my 5pm ride. I have to eat, and fast. My wife has had to be a bit of a saint too, and she has.

The cool side of that though, is that after that second week it gets easier to stay on the path – and the weight reallt burns off when it’s easy.

So, call it two more weeks, maybe three and I’ll be ahead of the Spring game… and none too soon – I wanna ride (even if the weather isn’t cooperating yet)!