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2018 Cycling Wrap-up, the Year in Review

4,998 relatively easy ride miles
2,741 sport miles
386 mountain bike miles
1,990 trainer miles

Total: 10,115

In several respects I think 2018 was one of the best years of my life.

There’s no doubt recovery was spectacular, easily one of my most enjoyable ever.  After a thorough review of the year, I did it right.  I had a few problem areas, but on the whole, I’m happy with where I’m at.  I was able to, as we say, “let go and let God” through much of the problems, so things turned out better than had I messed with the mix and gummed it up.

For my marriage, again, it was a spectacular year.  My wife and I both had a great time of it.  I wish I had some time to go into detail here, but that’ll have to be for another post.

As a father, I had some struggles.  This is something I’m actively working on to have a better ’19.  Kids do present challenges, and I wasn’t prepared for a couple of them.

Work was a challenge, but in the end the year turned out better than I could have hoped.

…And that leaves cycling.  I spent a lot of time on my bikes and enjoyed every minute of it.  I went on a few trips, did a long-distance tour or two, and spent the entire summer fit as an ox.

My cycling fitness, starting the first day of the new year, was my top priority.  I started ramping up so I could ride into spring strong on New Year’s Day.  It began with time on the trainer pushing the hardest gears on the bike with the trainer set at its greatest resistance setting.  My plan worked perfectly.

Going into spring I was in great shape.  What is normally a struggle to find my cycling legs was an enjoyable ramping up to speed.  I was able to spend more than my fair share of time up front.

The summer months were spectacular and our Tuesday night B group went from a beginning of the year 21-1/2-mph average to 22+.  By August we were starting to push a 23-mph average for the 29 mile open-road course.

The longer rides were slower, but much more enjoyable last year.  We’d always pushed for a 20-mph average on anything greater than 100-km, but last year we didn’t worry about that as much.  We just had fun as a group and let the speed land where it did.  I had a lot more fun that way.

The final few months of the year were my best ever.  With one of the gang struggling with heart problems and restricted to slower rides, we tossed speed out the window and just enjoyed riding as a group.  They were some of the best, if coldest, miles of the year.

So the wrap-up is definitive; it was done right.  I know this year won’t be as easy to manage as far as miles go.  Work obligations have changed and there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with last year’s pace.  I’ve accepted this and will make do with what I can get.

If I’m lucky enough to become an old man, I’ll look back on my 25th year sober as one of the best, most enjoyable of my life.  I feel blessed to have lived it.

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More P-O-W-E-R! How Much Do You Need for Speed

How much power do you need to average 16-mph? How about 20-mph? What about going big time… 23-mph? How about for a 30-mph+ mile with a bit of a tailwind? Oooh, I’ve got one for you. How’s about a 35-mph sprint finish?

I’ve got the answers, but you’re going to have to adjust for weight… I’m 6′ tall and 172 pounds. I’m not a climber… too fat. 146 watts average. 182 watts average. 254 watts average. 459 watts average. 900-ish peak watts.

So the question becomes how long can you hold that average wattage? The 900 watts, for one of us weekend warriors hurts but not as bad as the 459 watt mile… I puked in my mouth after that. Twice. The rest were all in a pack over 29-ish miles and took 1h:13m to 1h:50m. All verified as “close enough for government work” through friends who do use power meters, and by Strava which manages to guesstimate power pretty accurately.

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A few of the serious cyclists I know train with a power meter, but only a few. Power meters add quite a bit of cost to an already expensive sport and the question I like to ask about the practice, is how necessary is it or would the benefit be worth the money?

I have never felt the need to run out and pick up a power meter for my bike. I’ve been tempted, usually after a tough ride, but I’ve never gone as far as pricing them out or looking at reviews to determine the best. I also don’t race. All of the riding I do is experience related – I ride for the fun of riding, with a bunch of friends.

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I’ve managed to train blind to a point I can contribute in a 23-mph average ride on open roads, the only piece of equipment needed, other than the bike and a couple bottles of water, is a simple cycling computer that shows current speed. The most important thing I needed to bring to the dance was a lot of want to. Speed is all about will. You either have the will to get used to riding fast or you don’t – and most don’t because you have to put up with a lot of self-inflicted pain. Given enough time and mileage, though, the body comes around so the speed isn’t quite so painful.

While that sounds good, there’s a problematic hook to it – eventually I ran out of want to. I can manage 23 just fine – and spend a little more than my fair amount of time up front. I can’t hang with the 25-mph group for more than 20 miles. I simply run out of gas – and the “want to” required to train hard enough to keep up for that extra 2-mph just isn’t there.

Then the question comes down to whether or not a power meter would help. The obvious answer is sure, but do I need to go that far? I don’t think so. I’m fast enough to put a smile on my face, and that’s good enough for government work. In the end, that’s really what is important.

When I stash the Venge in the bike room after another great ride, knowing how hard I pushed on the pedals doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience and the memories I’ll take from cycling.

A power meter won’t improve those… and it appears Strava can do the rest, anyway.

Relentless Positive Attitude

Paul W. Smith, a local radio personality, likes to add in his daily broadcast, based on an interview from years ago, the phrase “relentless positive mental attitude”.  I have used that phrase for decades, simplified by one word, since I sobered up.  I just couldn’t put a simple phrase to it until I heard it….

A potent secret to my success is a relentless positive attitude.

Rather than look at things negatively, even when “bad” things happen, I look for ways to add “good” to the situation rather than detract from it.  How can I improve things rather than make them worse?  This is relentless positive attitude.

This isn’t to say we’re always smiling and chipper – that would be near impossible.  On the other hand, the only way I know to be smiling and chipper most of the time is to pursue a positive attitude relentlessly.

I can have happiness or anguish – it’s all how I choose to look at life.  Even when life sucks just a little bit.

Reasons I Love Recovery – Part One

Being an active member of the recovery community has one benefit, beyond the obvious (not dying, not being in a psych ward, or in prison); I am part of group of survivors.

We have survived a seemly impossible disease. Many will say the this disease “takes everything” good in life from us, but I believe that is too kind. I gave everything to be drunk. Some would call it semantics, but not me. I believe in taking ownership of my disease.

We who recover are a part of a community who have seen hell on earth and have come out on the other side to tell the tale. We are a part of something bigger than our own self. Better than.

And this is why so many of us are happy. For us, just to be on the right side of the grass, pumping air and happy, is like winning the lotto every day.

It’s the daily four lotto, not the big one, but you get the idea.

Begging God to help me get sober was the best thing that I ever did. All things good in my life are a result of that one minute.

I love my sober life.

What Happiness is to Me; Or Maybe What It Isn’t.

I think, to get to what my version of happiness is, I first have to get into what it isn’t.  Too often I see mistakes being made in what happiness isn’t.

Being happy, to me, is not the absence of strife, struggle, conflict, hardship, or difficulty.  Baby, that’s life.  Trying to find a life devoid of those things is like chasing a rainbow-farting unicorn… and deciding one can’t be happy until that unicorn is found and befriended.  Good luck, there’s no such thing – they call it mythical for a reason.

Happiness isn’t getting to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  I was five-years-old the last time I truly experienced that pleasure.  Happiness isn’t “easy” living, either; a sober, clean life is anything but easy.

Happiness, to me, is being content with what I’ve got.  It’s being comfortable in my own skin.  Happiness is being grateful for the life I have, or the life that was given me by my Higher Power after I asked for His Grace…  Happiness is doing the best with what I’ve got.

… and when I need a reminder, a bike ride with my wife and friends will do the trick.  Money won’t buy happiness, but it buys bikes, and that’s good enough for government work.

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A Perfectly, Wonderfully Fantastic Day… On a Road Bike

Saturday, January 5th… we should be buried in snow till March. We’re not, though. And we even had some sunshine.

It’s been a month or two since I rode my Trek outside. The Diverge gravel bike is nice, but there’s not much impressive about it. The tandem has been wonderful – especially with the new fenders that have kept the bike from getting too gnarly on wet roads… the tandem is a lot of work, though.

My road bikes, though… they’re spectacular. There’s just something about a lightweight, exceptionally fast road bike that puts a smile on my face…

Mrs. Bgddy and I decided to leave the tandem in the bike room, to opt for the single bikes. She’s got the new Specialized Power Mimic saddle and I wanted to see how she liked it. And I just wanted to ride the Trek outdoors.

We I readied the bikes, including dialing in my wife’s new saddle and swapping pedals from the tandem to the road bikes. I filled the water bottles and pumped the tires.

We rolled the bikes out… Chuck had ridden over and Doc Mike was parked on the side of the road and had his bike ready. It was cold, just 25° (-4 C), but the sun was shining in all it’s cloudless glory, a faint remnants of frozen fog hung in the air – just enough to make the first five miles a little skittish.

Not to mention, having ridden so many trainer miles on the Trek over the past couple of months, my first half-mile was almost comical how wobbly I was. I actually laughed out loud… through gritted teeth, of course. It seemed it might be a little slick in places.

Then the sun did its thing. In Michigan, we get a lot of cloud cover from October till April because we’re surrounded by the Great Lakes, so it’s a rare day we see the sun like that. A good morning for a winter ride became a great day, almost instantly.

We fought what little wind there was on the way out, over the first fifteen miles. Heading into Byron I hadn’t planned on going for the sprint but Doc Mike was up front and all of a sudden he was out of the saddle and going for it. I kicked it up to hold his wheel, but then my wife popped into my peripheral vision. She was going for the sign too. That’s all I needed.

I went straight after it. Out of the saddle and crankin’. Strava says I was only three seconds off of my personal best on that stretch. I got the 5200 up to 30-mph and took the sprint by a goodly margin.

A short stop at our usual gas station and we were headed home, tailwind almost the whole way. I wore a smile on my face the whole way. Just being in a pace-line, with the sun on my smiling mug, the pace just north of 20-mph, it was therapeutic. It made me remember why I like being me so much.

We added a few extra bonus miles so we could get Chuck closer to home before splitting off and heading for home ourselves. We pulled into the driveway with 30.6 miles at just north of an 18-mph average (29 km/h). It was an easy, fun pace the whole way.

It was a perfectly, wonderfully fantastic winter day. They don’t make them much better than that – and I needed it!

Digital EPO/Doping? For Those with a Little… Err… FTP.

My friends, for the love of God and all that is Holy, there’s a new way to lose friends and shun yourself…  It’s called Digital Doping.

I can remember a while back, a fella who commented on the most popular post I’ve ever written (How I Got Fast – A Noob’s Guide to a 23-mph Average) accusing me of lying about the fact that I’d done rides averaging 23-mph.  He required that I supply him my Strava info as proof, because obviously, if it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen.  Instead, I gave up some data from my Endomondo account (because I didn’t use Strava back then).  I hammered him pretty hard, too, for being an @$$hole about it.

This year, our B Group managed 23-mph, or very close to it, several times on Tuesday night – and I’m hooked up to Strava now, so the rides actually happened (thank goodness).  Long story short, I was pretty hot that the person who left the comment challenged me to begin with.  After all, who would lie about such a thing?!  You’d have to be a loser of epic proportions… and then I read there’s a site out there that scrubs and boosts one’s Strava data.

My friends, if you’ve come to a point where you’ve gotta artificially boost your stats on Strava, hang up your cycling shoes and melon protector for a minute, get your ass on a mountain bike on a trail somewhere and take a few hours to remember why you ride a bike in the first place.

While it is fun to write posts about what it feels like to be in a pace-line that averages 23-mph (and it’s even better to be able to be one of the horses of that group), eventually you’re going to have to back those bogus stats up in a club setting and “I just don’t have the legs tonight” isn’t going to cut it when you get dropped in the first five miles.

It’s better to be honest about the phone book full of people who can beat you than to lie and have it come out that it’s actually two phone books full of people who can beat you.