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My Idea of a Perfect Day In Recovery Isn’t Exactly What Many Might Think – And It’s Definitely Not All That Sexy.

I’m fortunate enough to work from home one day a week. Wednesday. Technically, I’m at the office about 6:10 am, but I’ve got a meeting at a job just 14 miles from home at 9, so rather than drive all the way back to the office after the meeting, I work in my home office for the rest of the day. Yesterday was particularly awesome. And by awesome, I mean hard. I fixed my estimating software with tech support, wrangled a few jobs, worked on some estimates and, with the exception of a nice lunch hour, was busy an hour-and-a-half after I’d normally leave the office.

That lunch hour was special, though.  My wife is running for the local school board so she’s always busy lately.  While she was on the phone, I got her gravel bike out of the bike room… it’s been put away wet so many times the rear brake cable was frozen inside the housing.  It was so bad, I had to cut the cable and housing up by the handlebar to get the cable out of the shifter.  Worst I’ve ever seen.  Now, for most this would mean dropping the bike off at the shop.  Mechanical disc brakes, new cable and housing, internally routed.

I won’t lie, I put the repair off almost a week because I was nervous about running that cable housing through the frame.  In the end, after a few different tricks failed, I got it through the little opening down by the bottom bracket with some luck and a pair of needle-nosed pliers.  Once the housing was through, the rest of the repair was pretty straightforward.  Not exactly easy, but I did a very nice job.  Now her “other” gravel bike (she has two currently) is good to go, 100%.  Then it was back to work, right up until I threw my leg over my top tube just before 5.

I almost didn’t bother with the bike ride.  I know, I know, but it was a little chilly (low 60°), windy, gray and cloudy… it wasn’t exactly a day suited for an enjoyable ride.  That’s exactly what I got out of it, though.  I took the Venge for a two-mile spin to check out the saddle position and decided I needed to change it a bit after getting back to the house.  I put on a vest and moved my Garmin and Varia taillight to the Trek and took that for the rest of my ride.  I let the tailwind push me and picked an easy gear for the headwind.  It should have been a junk mile ride but I had a fantastic time.  I was smiling when I pulled into the driveway.  Never would have seen that ride coming.  Not in those conditions.

Then, with my wife at a board meeting and my kids at swimming practice, I cleaned up and picked up pizza for supper.  Eating was a little quiet and lonely, but as soon as I was done, I had to hustle out the door to make my Tuesday night meeting.

Best meeting I’ve been to in months.  For those in the program, you know those superficial meetings where people talk about anything but recovery?  Like anyone gives a shit about how difficult their life is because the groomer didn’t cut the dog’s hair right, or the lesson someone learned in humility because the pool guy messed up the pool’s pH at the second home in California, but they were able to control themselves and didn’t yell at owner (no kidding, I actually sat through this a few years ago – I actually laughed out loud at the “humility, living life on life’s terms” part). 

No, last night’s meeting was one of those where you really get down to what’s going on and how to get through life on life’s terms, both from a noob’s perspective, and then from a seasoned AA’s perspective, and finally from the perspective of someone who’d relapsed after 42 years of recovery.  We talked about what mattered.  It was one of those meetings where everyone walks out feeling better about their recovery than when they walked in, no matter where we are on the path.

I left shortly after the meeting and was asleep by 9:30, and I did fall asleep with a smile on my face.

My friends, true peace, contentment and happiness – the best recovery has to offer – isn’t about enjoying the huge victories and the big leaps in progress.  It isn’t about winning the lottery.  It’s about finding, appreciating and making the most of the good in normal day-to-day life.  

Yesterday wasn’t spectacular because I hit a homerun.  Yesterday was spectacular because I saw the good in everything life gave me, from the moment I woke up till the second I fell asleep.  If you want to slow time down, so at the end of 30 years you’re not saying “Where did it go?”, but “Wow, what a ride!  What’s next?!”, this is my secret:  Do the next right thing at any given moment, then find a way to enjoy that moment for what it is.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.  It just takes practice.  Lots of it.

I Simply Ran Out of Gas… Three Miles Short of a Century.

It was a windy day, SSW and SW all day long, so we picked an east/west route so we wouldn’t be fighting it as much. Five of us rolled out to a perfect early fall morning start. My wife, Diane, Mike, Chuck and I headed off west in search of good times, laughs and miles. I’m already 600 miles (now 700) over my yearly goal of 6,000 outdoor miles, I’ve beaten every short distance speed record I’d acquired since 2011:

CYCLING, SPORT PERSONAL RECORDS
One Hour 24.38 mi
20 10 km 13:46
20 10 mi 23:59
20 20 km 29:45

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this has been one of my best years on two wheels – in fact, better than all of that speed stuff (which is fantastic), my wife and I have learned how to love our tandem and have ridden it almost every Sunday since April.  On top of all that, I’m up to 9 centuries and 14 metric centuries for the season.

I was excited for another century yesterday.  The goal was to head to Laingsburg – a 77-mile round trip going the long way out and heading straight back home.  The morning, excepting the wind, was wonderful.  Sunshine, cool but barely arm warmer weather (the boys didn’t bother, the girls wore theirs for a time).  Chuck and I were taking decent turns into the wind, three to five miles, and the pace was fair – 18 to 20-mph.  We had a six mile south stretch into the wind that was just brutal but Chuck was dug in like a tick and hammered the whole chunk keeping the pace right around 19-mph.  That was one of the toughest turns I’ve seen all year.

It was so epic, I didn’t even bother sprinting for my favorite City Limits sign.  I straight up gave it to him.  He’d earned it. 

After that stretch, just 14 miles and change into the ride, we only had six more miles of straight headwind the whole rest of the ride.  

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My wife and Diane split off after 28 miles to head home, so that left just the three of us and some of the most glorious miles we’d turned all year long.  We made the most of a cross-headwind, but when we hit the turn-around in Laingsburg, we hammered home with a little help.  We dropped Mike off at his last mile home (I was at 77 miles) and Chuck and I headed off to lunch.  

The wind had a little more west to it so it was a little tougher into it, but I still managed to crush out a couple of miles at 20 before turning north with a tailwind.  We pulled into our favorite 100-mile lunch stop at 83 miles.  We sat in the grass in the shade of a tree and ate.  

Getting started after lunch sucked.  I was a little better than a 19-mph average but Chuck was at 18.9 and he wanted 19.  Initially he took off heading west and it looked like we’d be able to jump right back into our pace but he slowed after a half-mile and said, “Maybe anything in the 18 range will be okay.”  I almost puked on my top tube a quarter-mile later on the way up a slight incline.  Chuck took a mile of headwind and I came around for a little chunk.  We back-and-forth’ed the next few miles and I could sense I was running out of gas.  Still, we were looking at that 19 average as we exited our favorite weeknight subdivision and headed for home.  I was up front and took a mile and a half with a cross-tailwind, taking a corner heading into the wind at almost 20-mph.  Chuck asked if I wanted him to take it but I shook him off.  I told him I was good and got him to the cross-tailwind.  He took a mile, then I took one.  That left Chuck to a headwind mile that he took between 19 & 20.  I had a mile of cross-tailwind that I hammered at 21… and I ran out of gas.  I had 96 miles and some change.

Chuck asked if I was going to ride home with him to get the extra miles but I passed.  I’d had enough and took my toy home.  My last mile into the headwind was between 12 & 16-mph and that was everything I had.  I dropped down to the baby ring and spun home, shutting off my Garmin at 97.07 miles.  I didn’t even care about that last three miles.  A 5k in an 11,000 km season.

Chuck called about five minutes later.  He pulled into his driveway with a 19.03-mph average.  The exuberance in his voice was cool.  He thanked me for hammering as hard as I did because every last mile mattered.  He thanked me again, commenting on Strava a few minutes later.  

That he made 19 and was so stoked that I helped made me feel pretty fantatic.  Definitely worth leaving three miles on the road for my friend.

The Gift Cycling Keeps on Giving: A Tuesday Night In Lennon to Remember

The night started off, humorously enough, with a discussion of politics – but this was a good discussion, like one of those discussions we’re supposed to have. It was the beginning of a discussion that could fix the country if the political class were adults and spoke like we did. When it was time to ride, though, my friend moved to the A group and I stayed on the A- side.

There’s been a lot on my angst lately. Difficult times with our daughter that are going to take some time and a lot of love to fix and a job I’m running that makes that problem look like child’s play, and I’m a little stressed lately. I needed a good hammer on the Venge.

We rolled out about 40 seconds after the A Group into a fairly stiff southerly crosswind 12 to 14-mph.  We had a couple of new guys rolling with us – one looked like he belonged with the A guys, another looked like he belonged on a weight rack rather than a BMC disc race bike, and another who looks like he belongs with the D Group but is starting to come around (though he wore headphones last evening, which I explained after the ride wouldn’t work in our group because it’s too dangerous at our speeds).  

The next three miles north were unbelievably fast – we were topping 30-mph at times.  A mile west, and another fast one north and it was time to pay the piper.  The new guy who looked like he could ride had a tendency of shooting off the front as if he were a horse in the Kentucky Derby and after the second time, one of my friends asked me to talk to him.  He did it once more, blowing up the group in the process and I had the conversation with him about how we roll.  It was smooth after that – until we got to the hills.

Half the group charged up the second set of hills too fast for the tandem, so another group of us, myself included, took to trying to bring the tandem back to the group.  We got close a couple of times but never quite made it – we let them go on the last hill and made our way to the regroup point at 20 miles in.  

The rest was a blast.  We headed north for the intermediate sprint, Mike I. and I up front.  Mike looked over and asked if I wanted to try to take the group all the way to the sprint lead-out but I shook my head.  I knew I was going to give it everything I had to get the group to 30+ mph and there was no way I was lasting the mile and change at those speeds.  Mike read me perfectly and we threw down the gauntlet, taking it to 32-mph with the group in tow.  When I was out of gas I signaled to Mike and flicked off, barely latching on at the back.  With a quarter-mile to the City Limits sign, I didn’t have a sprint in me.  Four others prepped and went.  I stayed with the tandem and brought everyone back together.  Then, the A’s passed.

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Several of the A- guys shot up to latch on to the A Group and we, a group of five, let them go.  We only had a couple of miles before a straight crosswind and I wanted a smaller group so we could echelon without taking up the entire road.  The strategy worked perfectly.  The five mile home stretch was flawless in a heavy crosswind.

I was going to wind it up for the final sprint.  We started ramping it up with 0.8 of a mile left, working the pace from 21-1/2 to 27.  I waited, as nobody was really going for it, until the last second and dropped the hammer from 27 to 32 and some change, passing the rest of our group.  I had some aggression to get out so I stayed on the gas until the sign, letting up and coasting just at the line.

I got a fairly cool photo heading back as the smoke from the Oregon forest mismanagement fires has made its way all the way across the country.  It’s way too thin to block the sun, but it’s enough for a spectacular scene.  We got back to the parking lot and it was hi-fives and laughs all around.  We had a few “herding cats” moments at the beginning of the ride but all’s well that ends well, and that ride did… and I rode my angst right out.

I thanked God more than once on the way home.  I needed that.

Go Figure, It’s the Slow Century that Hammers Me Hardest… Plus, REDEMPTION!

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Saturday’s ride had all the makings of greatness.  Great group of friends, great mileage, a new route, sunshine (well, ish), decent temps and wind in the single digits… and the promise of a reasonable, easy pace.

We rolled out early with no care in the world about the aforementioned pace.  With everyone formed up and rolling after serveral SNAFU’s, the 65 mile route was fairly enjoyable, though we spent a few miles on roads that resembled the cobbles in the Paris Roubaix.  I think I’ve knocked something loose on the Venge.  I was feeling quite good toward the end of the 100+k’s.

Then came the rough stuff.  Most of our group took their toys and went home leaving Chuck and I to the last 34 miles.  We’d both gone to our respective homes to drop cool weather gear that was no longer needed.  We met on the road near Chuck’s house and headed out with a tailwind to our usual weekday route so we could keep the remainder local and minimize the north/south travel, thus negating much of the headwind.  First was an out and back loop, then to our favorite late century stop, Subway, for lunch.  I like a good, toasted submarine sammich on most days, but 75 miles into a century, I don’t know what it is, but I prefer my favorite sub over a burger.  Every time.  

The only problem is starting out after said Subway sammich.  And it really sucked Saturday.  We trundled on, though, taking our time heading to a nice little subdivision that takes a shade more than 2 miles to complete a loop.  We did five, losing several tenths off our average that was already low.  We exited with an 18.1 average and ambled home into a cross-headwind.  Our pace, other than stops for intersections or lunch, was remarkably steady between 18 & 20-mph for the last two-thirds of the ride, though (64 miles).  

With eight miles to go, I was ready to be done.  My feet were hurting, and I was tired.  We pressed on, though, and I even had to ride with Chuck most of the way to his house to get another couple of miles, lest I ride all that way to come up two short of an even 100.  

I pulled into the driveway with 100.17 miles and I was cooked.  My slowest century in the last seven or eight years, and it hammered me.  

I’ll be trying to figure the dynamics of this one for some time.  I had the good bike, an easy pace, perfect weather (if a terrible wind out of the southeast – we simply have no out an back routes to counter that wind), and a good pace-line with a great group of friends.  This one should have been easy.  It wasn’t.  However…

Sunday morning, after raining all night, I prepped the tandem for Sunday Funday.  I woke up a little on the wrecked side, and I was looking forward to an easy 17-mph 40-mile morning.  The pavement was soaked and didn’t look like it would dry up before we rode, so I was infinitely grateful for our fenders… not exactly sexy, but when you’re riding on wet pavement, they keep the bike and my wife and I dry – and whomever happens to be drafting us gets a clean draft rather than having to eat spray.

Unlike Saturday, the first half of this ride was going to be headwind – and with zero chance of us getting all the way out before the wind changed directions.  We had Chucker, Mike, McMike, and Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and we set the pace going out.  Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a breeze for the first six miles but it started picking up as we neared our first turn.  We gave up the front and the group echeloned easily heading south.  We stair-stepped the headwind and, entirely against the norm, entering my favorite sprint in all of the roads we travel, my wife and I remained in formation.  As we passed the City Limits sign I told my wife that I didn’t need to burn matches I didn’t have – we were 14 miles into a 40 miler.

We stopped for a bit and rolled out again into the wind… three more miles dead into it, followed by a crosswind, and then, sweet, glorious tailwind – and the wind had picked up nicely during the crosswind section.  We stopped again after the crosswind section and I bought a Coke for my wife and I to split.  It was a relatively short stop and we were back after it.

We took the lead because I knew, maybe four miles up the road, there was a City Limits sign that I wanted.  We took it fairly easy heading down the road at 22 to 25-mph, letting the wind do its thing.  My wife asked me to shift down a gear so she could spin her legs a little before the sign and I obliged (heh, how cool is that – “I know we’ve got a sprint coming up, so let me get ready”… that’s love, baby).  Up a little incline and just before the top I put the hammer down, my wife in tune with me.  We thundered down the back side of the hill, Mike threatening to overtake on the left.  I gave it one last hammer and we crossed the line, about a bike’s-length to spare at 33-mph.

My wife and I gave up the front after that and, after a longcut around a six-wide train track intersection that we avoid like the plague, we hammered down the road toward home in the draft, picking up a 3rd and 5th place on a couple of seriously contested segments along the way.  I don’t know where it came from, but we were both hitting the pedals hard.  Sometime after our first stop, my legs came back but we were holding speeds north of 25-mph, at times up to 28 with just a 12-mph tailwind.  

There were a few times I thought about sitting up and taking it easy heading back but I thought better of it.  We pushed on till the last quarter-mile and we pulled into the driveway with 40 miles at a cool 19-1/2-mph pace.  And redemption.  Saturday was a rough day, but we over-performed Sunday.  Good times for sure.

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Where I’m At After Vacation

It was a slow start to August, mileage wise, but that was by design. I had a goal, January First, of 6,000 outdoor miles. I’ve got 635 to go. That’ll be 535 after today. I was ready for a bit of a break after four straight 1,000+ mile months.

I believe I may have been a bit overtrained. Still, my wife and I rode most days, we just didn’t do any long rides – we had plenty of other fun things to do on vacation, like boating and swimming… and eating!

Since coming back last Saturday, though, it’s been a straight diet of miles. We did a century last Saturday and we’re out for another this morning and all is well.

The important thing overall, however, is I’m happy. I’ve had a lot more temptation to drink over the last week but my reaction kicked in like a steel trap, just as it should. I have a daily reminder pop up that says, “Do you still think you’re in charge of your character defects?”

The short answer is, I’m not. They’ve been given to my Higher Power, so when they pop up, I know just where they belong – and temptation is just like any other defect. If I ask for it to be removed from me, it’s gone. Instantly. This takes faith and practice, but it works, and that’s all a recovered drunk can ask for. Well, that, peace and contentment, and I have it all.

Work is going well and we’re very busy.

And my wife and I just celebrated the big 25 years together (together, not married – that’ll be in a couple of years). Folks, as that goes, it’s as good as it gets. Peace, contentment, happiness, faith and hard work.

Certainly more than a drunk deserves. Just about right for a recovered one. It is, after all, promised… if we work for it.

Make it an awesome day. I have to get the Venge ready!

Peace, Contentment and, Dare I Say, Happiness Are Possible; I Just Never Found Them at the Bottom of a Bottle

Before I begin, please take note that I didn’t specify what kind of bottle.  I suppose I should have added syringe and bong/pipe as well, but you get the idea.

I was especially lucky when the entire population of Michigan decided I should end my drinking/controlled substance career I happened into recovery at the early age of just twenty-two years-old.  I was really just a puppy at that point.  I was… call it fortunate, because I knew down to my baby toes that I would be completely, irrevocably fucked if I continued to drink.

And remembering this has been the gift that keeps on giving ever since I quit.

You see, knowing your best thinking has gotten you into such a deep hole that you can’t possibly figure out how to stop digging, let alone work on climbing out – that brings with it a lot of freedom.  When our back is against a wall and a freight train is bearing down on us, well, we either move or get run over.  You read that right, that brings us freedom.

How is that possible, you ask?

Well, it’s very simple, really.  When you’re at that point you don’t know whether to $#!+ or get f***ed, it becomes increasingly easier to stop fighting recovery with fear.

Please read that again, that last paragraph.  Two sentences.  “Oh, whatever will I do for fun if I can’t smoke and drink anymore, whoa is me!”  That becomes, “I don’t care, just make the freaking pain stop!”  I recovered, and I deserve to be recovered, because I stopped fighting the fear of recovery.  Folks, if the cure for cancer were to go to three meetings a week, work a few steps, and say a few prayers, the line to get into every meeting would be out the door, stretched around the block.  That’s simply how I looked at recovery.  If you’d have told me standing on my head in the corner twice a day, three minutes at a time would help me recover, I’d have done it.  I’d have looked at you funny, but I’d have done it, because it was either that or the freight train.

Let’s look at this another way.  I love people who absolutely will not… can not simply give themselves to the notion that there’s can be a Higher Power out there for their recovery’s sake.  Really?  Look, I had a pretty high bottom, but I also did some deplorable shit in my using days.  Nobody gets to the jumping off place just before recovery on a winning streak.  After all the heinous shit we did, the Higher Power is just a step too far?  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see why that would be.

For God’s sake, I almost drank myself to death before my 30th birthday.  I can remember getting lost after getting hammered at a strip joint one night and I ended up pissing my pants while driving my car, trying to get home, hammered… but  I can’t allow the idea that there might be an HP out there who will take away my character defects because that’s just a bridge too far?  Folks, after all the crap we did before we were good and ready to quit, after all of the lying, cheating, stealing and conniving, the HP isn’t the road block to get hung up on.  Don’t let that small thing get in the way of peace, contentment and happiness.

There’s a better way.  And remember; we only say “God” to keep it simple.  If you need a starting point, an ashtray won’t work as a higher power.  I know some people claim it can be broken down to a base level, but the old ashtray is bullshit.  Choose the power in the group to start.  It is a Higher Power of our understanding, after all, whatever your capacity is at that point, so try the power at the meeting that helps us stay sober through situations that used to have us hanging on to the edge of a toilet as if we were rock climbing so we could puke at the top before you go do an ashtray.

At least that will get you used to the idea that it’s okay, after all that nasty shit we did that will be on a fourth and fifth step very soon, to put a little faith in something you can’t see or touch.  It’s not the end of the world.

It’s the beginning.

Don’t let a Higher Power be your roadblock to happiness.  The alternative is the freight train, and you definitely don’t want that.  We’ve been through too much to let something so simple get in the way of contentment and peace.  And if you absolutely, positively can’t get the HP behind you, read the chapter “We Agnostics” in the Big Book.  It starts on Page 44.

In the end, the AA way of life isn’t for everyone and it’s not the only way to sober up.  It’s the only way I know, though, to switch from being a drunk with one foot in the grave to a happy, content, peaceful, productive member of society.  I’ll admit that I was fortunate, though.  While I had other hangups about the program, the HP was no roadblock for me.

Life Is Short. Bikes Are Cool. Ride ‘Em And Smile. Or Laugh… Out Loud… As the Case May Be.

My real favorite ride is normally “the one I’m currently on”… however I really do have a few favorites.  Those rides that simply put a smile on my face, every time I get to put rubber to pavement.  Tuesday night is one.  I can ride that route – hell, I’ve ridden that route – a hundred times and never get bored.  I actually did the math, it’s somewhere between 192 and 208.  Give or take.

There’s one special route that my wife and I ride, though… one special road.  We ride it over and over again…

It has some long, easy up where you just settle into a little gear and spin your way up…

Majestic scenery…

Twisty, technical winding roads – more turns than you can shake a stick at… some straight shot descents…

Some challenging up, if I’m… erm… up for it…

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And one badass straight shot descent.  There are no photos of that one.  I hit 50-mph yesterday, gravity only.  I didn’t even try.

The loop that my wife and I are currently riding has it all.  Including my wife.  And that’s as good as it gets, my friends.  Good times and noodle salad.

Life is short.  Bikes are cool.  Ride ’em hard or ride ’em easy.  Just make sure to ride ’em.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

 

TNIL (Tuesday Night In Lennon): The Wind Makes an Appearance Edition

The wind was building all day long. Forecasts said it was coming, and it did. 15-mph winds with gusts above 20 (24-kmh and 32-kmh respectively) out of the west. I knew shortly after I woke up at four in the morning that TNIL was going to be tough.

After an easier than normal warm-up, we lined up to roll. We had a fairly small B Group and the A’s were flush, so one of our guys, as is usual, suggested we roll out with the A’s and let them pull us to the tailwind. This sounds brilliant, but it’s a recipe for disaster. What you envision happening is the group sharing the load, defeating the headwind as a triumphal group. Hi-five’s all around! It’s damn-near a beer commercial.

That’s not what happens, though. No, what happens is you get a knot of A guys rolling up the road, progressively in echelon to the right of the road to escape the crosswind a mile-and-a-half up the road, followed closely by eight B Group’ers all lined up in the ditch on the edge of the road with no draft. They get spit off one-by-one and take fifteen miles to come back together as a few groups. “Who wants that chaos?” I asked. I suggested we wait and roll out as a B Group. After a complaint, I relented and my buddy Chuck said, “Well that’s great, now we have to chase them down!” The chase never materialized and we rolled out as the B Group.

What came next was a wonder in teamwork and effective, enjoyable cycling. We bucked the headwind, chewed on the crosswind, bucked some more headwind and at the turn for tailwind at 16-ish miles, we had a 20-mph average. We’d lost a couple of the weaker riders but we were, relatively speaking, whole.

And just as all hell was about to break loose with a tailwind when we made the left hand hairpin turn… there was a train lazily rolling down the tracks across the road.

We ended up waiting for several minutes for the train to pass. Once it was clear, we took a minute to form up climbing a hill and BAM, just like that the hammer dropped. The pace picked up and we had us a ride on our hands. We cruised the hills with a little help from the wind and turned in for the regroup after the last big hill. After the last rider turned the corner, we rolled toward my favorite part of the ride.

Immediately after the regroup, we’ve got a nice little descent that takes us to 28-ish-mph followed by a sharp, short climb before we level out at a 2% incline that we normally take at around 21-mph. Last night we were over 23. We crested the top with two horses up front. I was second bike back and figured I’d be lead-out. The two up front took a really long turn, screaming down the -1 to -3% grade at 33-mph. My guy started to bleed speed and when he dropped to 29, I came around rather than wait for him to flick. I took it back up to 30 on the flat with six tenths of a mile to the City Limits sign. I kept the hammer down and, almost unbelievably, didn’t run out of gas. The tenths clicked by until the sign was only 100 yards away. I was watching shadows behind me and couldn’t see anyone making a move so I kept the power up… I crossed the City Limits sign first, on the front for six tenths of a mile at 30-mph. First time off the front like that.  I’ve taken the sign dozens of times but never from the lead-out position… and certainly not while leading out a group of horses like the one we had last night. I’m going to have a smile on my face for a while remembering that one.

Next up was a turn north for a couple miles. I made a mistake, trying to wave a truck by after a four-way stop and fell off the back a considerable distance. The speed after that stop was the problem. The group goes from 15 to 27-mph almost instantly because of a perfect little 1% descent. I was at 15, waving my arm to get him to go around, and stayed there while the group accelerated. I absolutely had to bust my butt to latch back on. I almost quit, but with one last rush, I latched. Thankfully, being at the back, I had enough time to fully recover. I knew the homestretch was coming up with a 15 to 20-mph tailwind.

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The last four-ish miles were insane and awesome. We managed to keep it above 27-mph the whole way, with the exception of a stop for a stop sign. That break was needed, too. If we’d have hit the hill after that intersection at speed, it would have been ugly for the tandems. Instead, the pace increased steadily and they were with us for the final push.

The final 3/4’s of a mile is slightly downhill, between 1/2 and 1%. With that tailwind, it was absolutely awesome. We were hard on the pedals at 30-mph and cooking hard for the sprint. The lead fell off and my buddy Chucker and Josh took the lead. Josh is a big dude and with him up front, I knew I could hold his wheel but I didn’t know if I’d get around him. I was in perfect position as the speed hit 33… then 34… we just nudged 35 and I didn’t bother going around him. In hindsight I should have – but 35-mph.

I finished second behind Josh. He earned it. The parade mile home was all hi-five’s and laughs. It wasn’t the fastest Tuesday night, but it was fast enough with that wind, and it was more fun that a person should have with their clothes on.

That’ll do.

Hardcore Fast; Thursday Evening Speed and Happiness on a Bicycle

There comes with cycling, a virtually indescribable joy in being a part of a solid pace-line, speeding down a winding road so fast cars have a tough time keeping up.  I “train” only so I can be a part of that.  I don’t care about Strava accolades, KOM’s, PR’s, or beating other people… for me, it’s just about being a part of the group.  The speed and intricacy of it is my definition of fun.

We prepped to roll out Thursday night coming off a record event the week before. Conditions were perfect last week. This week, less desirable – better temp, more of a breeze… but we had a larger, faster group with some serious heavy hitters from Tuesday Night in Lennon.  With the fantastic weather and 0% chance of rain, I picked the Venge for this ride.

Craig and I led the group out in a double pace-line.  We had a big group, but it splintered quickly under a rubber-band effect and unfortunately, with a few new guys in the group, we missed a couple of regroup points.  We did manage to hit a couple, though, one a few minutes before this photo was taken by a friend and regular in our group who was stuck attending a graduation party (don’t worry, Gov., social distancing was being practiced – well, ish).  Coming out of the Lake Shannon loop, we were pushing, unbelievably, a 22-mph average (35-kmh).  20-mph is fast for the ride.  21 is crazy and was our record just last week.

Coming over a major hill that I PR’ed on last week, I PR’ed again (by a lot) but still got dropped and the group rolled right through the regroup point so four of us, rather than try to chase down a group we were never going to catch, cut a hard mile of the out-and-back portion of the course off and waited atop a hill that was going to hammer the lead group.  We simply stopped, took a second to catch our breath, take a drink and waited for them to appear on the way up an ugly 6% climb.

Sure enough, once we caught a glimpse of them we started rolling and took the lead as they latched on.  From that point on, we stayed together, sharing the headwind ride back.  I’d dropped from 22-mph down to 21.6, but the average climbed as much of the headwind was actually slightly downhill.  We turned right to a crosswind and hammered down the road.  Our average passed 22-mph by a tenth as we closed in on the last climb.

I, having spent way too much time up front early on while the group was sorting itself out, was completely spent.  As we rounded the corner to start the climb, I flicked off the front and didn’t bother latching on at the back.  I was popped and I just didn’t have a desire to try to keep up.  I didn’t care about the average or the record.  I eased my way up in the granny gear and lumbered down the back toward the City Limits sign and the end of our most excellent ride.

Even chilling up the last hill I beat last week’s average by six or seven tenths of a mile-an-hour.

It was all laughs back in the parking lot as we loaded our toys and headed home.  Another record breaking Thursday night… and I can feel it today!  I’ll be looking forward to a slow evening ride a little later.  I have no doubt, with excellent weather for the weekend, we’ll put together a fun, long ride for Saturday.

After having leftover pizza for dinner, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  I surely woke up smiling.

At Least I’m Consistent… Miles, Weight Loss, Good Food and Happiness

I couldn’t have written my fitness and mileage for the 2020 season any better – everything else, well that’s a different story!  I started off slow, but I picked up steam with the lock down and COVIDcation 2020.

April – Full COVIDcation, didn’t work a day:                                  1,062 miles.

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May – Back to work, but fantastic weather meant:                       1,060 miles.

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June – More fantastic weather, but busy!  Still:                              1,058 miles.

At least it’s consistent!

I dropped 10 pounds in April.  Another three in May and another couple in June.  Best part is it’s been fairly easy.  I haven’t much changed what I’ve been eating, though I have changed how much.  The truth is, I got used to eating just a little too much.  And, if I’m being honest, enjoying eating just a little too much (there are two possible meanings in that simple sentence.  Yes, to both).  I’ve simply had to stop it and, with an ideal increase in mileage, the weight’s come off.

The way I see it, I’ve got about ten to go over the next three months.  If I can do that, I’ll be right where I want to be going into winter… the only trick being watching what the hell I’m eating over winter.  Typically, that’s not gone so well.