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An Easy TNIL; When Riding Easy, Eat Headwind for Dinner

As a part of our marriage renaissance, I’ve been opting to ride with my wife more. Firstly, we simply weren’t as close as we could have been for long time and missed her terribly – I missed loving to spend time with her, and she with me. Secondly, well, see firstly. Thirdly, you get the drill.

And so it was, last night, my wife and I attended our daughter’s tennis meet a half-dozen miles from the start of Tuesday Night in Lennon. When I got home from the office, my wife was on the fence about riding, I was not – wheels were rolling at 6. I asked her if she’d ride with me and after some convincing, she agreed. I quickly prepped both bikes, aired tires, set water bottles, and laid out my clothes to get dressed after packing the bikes and our gear – helmets, shoes and shades.

We headed to my daughter’s meet and watched her win a grand match. It was fun to watch.

After, as the wind started picking up, adding an unsettling chill to the already cool air, we loaded into the car and headed over to the church parking lot where we meet up. We’d missed the warm-up and headed into the church to change into our cycling kit. Once changed, I unpacked and readied the bikes to roll and let my normal riding buddies know my wife and I would be riding together. We also picked up Jonathan and Big Joe. We rolled out shortly after the A/A-Elite mixed group headed out.

I took the lead into the headwind. My original intent was just to set the pace so my wife could hang at the back and catch a decent draft without being too taxed but as the miles ticked by, I decided to stay up there and eat the first four miles of headwind. The pace was lively and just right to be fun and taxing but nothing too difficult.

In fact, it ended up turning into one of the more enjoyable Tuesday nights in recent memory.

On the homestretch, we were in a tight bunch with a decent tailwind and were pushing around 22 to 24-mph (35 to 38 km/h). Jonathan was up front and started pulling away, with me in second. I could see Joe’s and my wife’s shadows start to fade off, so I slowed down to wait for my wife. Jonathan was about ten bikes up and my wife said, “No! Go play. I’m okay”. I said no, that I was staying, but my wife insisted. I went off to chase Jonathan down. He’d slowed down to wait but as I got within earshot, I told him to “go-go-go” and he picked up the pace. He pipped me earlier at the Vernon sign by drafting me till the last minute – I had nothing left to match his challenge. I did the same to him. I rode him like a rented mule at 26-mph (decidedly faster than a mule will run, btw) and as we rounded the corner at the farmhouse I waited till I knew keep full gas on all the way to the City Limits sign. When I hit the spot, I launched from 26-mph to 31-1/2. Like me at the first sprint, all Jonathan could do was watch me go by.

Up the road a short way, I turned around and waited for my wife and Joe to get across the line. We joined up again and had a few laughs as we took it easy for the last mile to the parking lot.

We turned out a little more than 25 miles and we crossed the City Limits sign at 18.5-mph for an average. It was a great night.

When 14 Miles on My Road Bike is Enough…

I got home from work a little late last night. Not terribly so, only about ten minutes, but I’m usually like clockwork. The Michigan State Flower, affectionately known as the Road Construction Barrel is out on the first third of my expressway ride home and traffic is a little silly until I start heading north. I have another way home, if I choose, but that route is a little less than enjoyable so I’ve avoided it.

My wife was going to be working late and there was a slight chance of a popup shower or two so I readied the Trek. I had big plans of 23-ish solo miles. My riding buddy is out of town till this afternoon and there was plenty to do around the house so I decided to throw my high-minded goal out the window and do a nice little recovery ride before heading home to attend to some things around the house.

At a touch past 5 I wheeled my Trek out the door and threw a leg over the top tube. Right pedal, easy push off, fumble with my left foot for the pedal, snag the loop, lock in and I’m off. I don’t know when that little quirk happened, the fumbling with my left foot, but it makes me laugh every time it happens. I do know why: A lot of time on the tandem with my wife. We have two-sided mountain pedals on the tandem, so it’s vastly easier to line up a cleat and mash down on the pedal, rather than line up the toe to the loop and push the loop forward to engage the cleat.

All that time on the tandem this spring has paid dividends on the single bikes, as I hoped it would. I was a little slow heading north, but with a west-northwesterly wind, a little slow wasn’t surprising. I also had a design of a much needed active recovery ride. After three hard days on the tandem, I probably should have taken a day off, but the opportunity to ride solo and easy don’t present themselves too often. I turned left at the intersection to get some of the headwind out of the way early… and dropped like a rock from an easy 18-mph to struggling to hold 15. The headwind actually made me laugh as I rounded the corner after clearing traffic.

A mile west, then one north, turn around and back south… and then the fun part. Three miles heading east. 25-mph was fairly easy. 27 took some effort. A couple of miles south, turn around and two north, then two east and one south to the driveway. Just enough to keep the legs spun up for tonight. It was better than taking a day off, that’s for sure!

Incidentally, my daughter was cooking us a chicken taco dinner and needed a bunch of stuff from the grocery store she hadn’t counted on needing. I barely got anything done that I needed to because I had to run out shopping. Ah well, the chicken tacos were amazing. Worth it.

Shear Tandemonium! 120 Miles in Three Days on a Tandem; Better Than a Kiss on the Cheek from My Wife…

My wonderful wife and I rode the tandem all three days, well, both weekend days and Friday and it was fantastic. In fact, it felt a little off riding my Trek at the cycling club’s annual new member ride yesterday.

Part of the positive nature of riding together with my wife on a tandem is that working as a team on a bicycle translates to working well together off the bike. Even better, working together on the tandem helped remind us how our marriage should be when we weren’t working all that well together off the bike.

I’m thinking about how special this weekend was. My stoker wife rode that tandem like she meant it. I could feel a little more effort up the hills – a few times I really had to put some major watts down to ensure she wasn’t pedaling through me. It was awesome. We also developed a code for coasting and riding over tracks so she wouldn’t get caught sitting on the saddle over rough train tracks, and we developed a series of silent gestures to let the other know they were doing well, were appreciated, or just a simple, “I’m having an awesome time with you. I love you” as we led the pack out.

Our rise to tandemdom has been an effort on both our part. In the process, especially in the last couple of months our marriage went from good to stellar. We set a wrecking ball to our emotional barriers, fears and insecurities. We learned to, rather than argue, work together for actual, real solutions. We choose that rather than make demands and damage the relationship… which leads to more emotional barriers, fear and insecurity. That effort off the bike made it all the more wonderful on the bike. Things that used to baffle us are quickly turned into solutions. There’s so much love in our house, are daughters often break down into tears when they talk about the profound changes.

In fact, I’m thinking this actually may need a Friday series because I feel the need to share this miracle. I get the idea I may be meant to… I’ll kick the tires on this.

Anyway, as my buddy, Mike likes to say, “A tandem is either a marriage maker or a marriage breaker”. Our tandem helped make our marriage what it is today by showing us, but me in particular, how to work together for a decent goal.

So Many Miles on the Tandem!

This has been the wackiest year of cycling since I started riding in 2011. The weather all spring was ugly and uncooperative and I don’t know anyone up in miles from last year. No one.

That said, the weather has taken a turn for the better and improved significantly to where we’re out in shorts and short sleeves. I’m up to something resembling normal week numbers – after Saturday’s 49-mile ride on the tandem, I was sitting on 177 miles over the last seven days.

In addition, my wife and I have been doing significant work on our marriage and we’re happier together than I can ever remember. That blessing translated even to bike choice. In previous years, we’d either choose single bikes and let the tandem sit, or only ride the tandem on Sunday mornings. We’re choosing the tandem every time we ride together. In fact, after some rudimentary math on the way out on a 50-mile out-and-back route, I realized I’ve got more miles on the tandem this year than I do on the Venge and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Jess and I are actually talking about trading in our Periscope for a new Co-Motion Robusto – a significant increase in quality and a massive decrease in weight. The changes also meant less time for cycling, but the benefits vastly outweigh missing some time on two wheels.

At this point, I’d rather ride with my wife on a tandem. So why not do that on something that would compliment our speedy nature rather than act as a boat anchor? We bought our periscope so that we could have something that would fit a stoker as small as our young daughters, or my wife. With the one of the girls off at college and the other halfway through high school (and neither enjoying cycling), it makes sense to get us onto something that fits us properly.

In the case of my wife and I, a friend loves to say a tandem is a marriage maker, or a marriage breaker. We made our marriage… then brought the tandem to the party. For us, the tandem perfectly compliments where we are at, mentally and physically, in our marriage. The better we’re doing as a couple, the more we enjoy riding the tandem.

I never thought I’d choose a 43-pound boat anchor over a 16-pound aero race bike. But I do, and for that I am grateful.

Step Eleven: Sought Through Prayer And Meditation… How I Started to Make Meditation Work for Me – Without the Buzzwords and Jargon!

I’m going to be extraordinarily clear here; I wasn’t much for meditation. For 29 years I chose a different route for my thoughts, and especially my emotions. I treated many thoughts, again, especially inconvenient emotions I didn’t find useful as “garbage”. Much the same as it’s said dreams are the brain’s way of taking out the garbage in the subconscious, I treated my conscious mind the same way.

It was very efficient and very safe. But there was a massive down-side to all of that efficiency and safety… and that is what meditation showed me I was missing.

Working with a friend and professional recovery counselor, he had me start looking into “centering prayer” made famous by a monk, Thomas Keating. Rather than throwing out uneasy emotions and thoughts, Pete had me start to look at them seriously. He asked me to start paying attention. What were my thoughts telling me? What thoughts were based in fear? How did that fear take shape in my life and in my interactions with my wife, kids and friends?

It took me two days to realize that I had entirely walled my heart off from everyone – something I lied to myself. I’d convinced myself it made me a better man, husband and father. I had lied to myself and the lie was so complete, when I started meditating with a purpose, I was aghast. The eye-opening event was profound and shocking.

I immediately took to rectifying this. I dissected every thought and emotion as it popped up during meditation sessions and even when a random thought would just pop up.

This is what led to the massive life changes that I’ve been writing about in my recovery these last two months. I remember the day I allowed myself to feel emotions again, vividly. I allowed to crumble all of the defenses I’d built up over the years – and I mean that literally, I could feel the walls crumble and fall away. It was shocking, horrifying and glorious all at the same time. With my wife, it almost felt like I was that young, awkward man and we were courting again.

My heart would skip a beat when she’d call. You know what it was? This just occurred to me as I was writing, it’s like I’d been dying of thirst and when the walls came down, the water that had just been a small trickle I’d let in to keep me alive, rushed in to fill the vacuum.

It took me a full month to wrap my head (and heart) around this event.

This wasn’t perfect, though. With those emotions came a lot of fear that I’d blocked off. Chief among those was, “how could my wife possibly have lived with me like this for 25 years”? It hurt me to my core. The next couple of weeks were tearful for me. As I realized how much better I should have been doing, as my heart filled with love and compassion for my wife and kids, I changed. God changed me.

When I started this walkabout two months ago, this is vastly better than what I’d hoped for. I am so impossibly head-over-heels in love with my wife, I can hardly contain it… and my wife changed with me. Her actions that led me to build my defenses completely stopped and turned 180 degrees. This isn’t to take the focus off me, where it belongs, but to say my wife, recognizing the massive good that could come from these changes, worked with me to come back.

Meditation has been amazing for me, and I will be attending to this function of “the program” much more regularly so I can keep growing and walking the path I’m on. I only thought I loved my wife and family a few months ago… or maybe to say, I loved them as best I could a few months ago. I’ve been opened to a whole new world I didn’t even know was there.

And it is beautiful.

The Difference Between a Good and Fantastic Marriage As I (Currently) Understand It.

Last night was a Thursday night ride in Fenton, the Lake Shannon Loop, and I wasn’t there. In the last decade+, with a perfect evening for cycling like we had last night, I never would have missed that ride.

Earlier in the day, I’d gone to a meeting at one of my jobsites a couple hours before lunch. Then over to my wife’s office fifteen minutes up the road where I completed some paperwork that needed to be completed for another, just up the road. She was in a Zoom meeting with her colleagues, so I stayed out in the car and worked until she texted me the meeting was over. I got a lot done sitting at one of the spare desks in the open office room – enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about working much the next day. Then we went across the street, holding hands, to get lunch.

My wife and I have been married 25 years and we still hold hands everywhere we go. We both love the connection.

We finished our lunch and I headed over to look at another monster of a job we’ve got nearby. I walked that one and talked to our workers on site, walked with the superintendent, then checked out a second building we’re just starting on the same site. That went well and when I was done, I headed back to my wife’s office to finish up my work for the day.

At a quarter past 3 (I work 6am to 3pm for an 8-hour day in 9 hours), I kissed my wife goodbye. She had some late work to do two towns north and I headed to my daughter’s tennis match. She was not expecting to see one of us at her meet. I’d texted her sister earlier to let her know if she came to the meet I’d fill up her gas tank. She jumped at that offer but was running a little late. My youngest was warming up when I walked over to her court and stood at the fence. It was a sunny, warm, beautiful Michigan afternoon and as she turned and it dawned on her that she recognized the lone person standing at the end of her court, her jaw dropped and her eyes welled up with happy tears. I just nodded and said, “I love you, kiddo”.

My girl played her heart out. In between sets, I spoke with our older daughter about things I’d done wrong in my marriage to her mom. I told her about building up fear-based defensive walls to protect my emotions – and more important, I told her why and how I broke them down, hopefully for good (God willing) and what that meant for her mom and I. I don’t think we’ve ever been as happy, and sustainably happy to be together.

It was an amazing evening.

I met my daughter at a gas station and filled her car up, as promised and she went off to see her new hunk of a boyfriend, a transferred rugby player from Rutgers. I drove home alone, a smile on my face, but a dark cloud loomed over my soul… my wife was working late out of town, from 6pm to 8. She never leaves an event like that on time and we had plans to talk about for the wedding/renewal while she drove on the hour-long drive home. This was why I built up the defensive walls I wrote of earlier. I’m the least important person when she’s in a crowd and that hurts. I tried to stay positive. I prayed about it. I prayed hard

And shortly after 8pm I got a text from my wife that she was on her way and on the phone with her mom and would be calling me when she was done talking to her mom. Now it was my turn for the jaw drop. My wife rarely cared enough to do something like that. She’d always defaulted to, “Meh, he’ll be okay”. I never was. See, I’ve always been excited to see my wife, and it hurts when she’s late and doesn’t bother to call (something I do in the rare case I’m running late). And everything I’d emotionally prepared for, this time, was wrong. She left on time and was going over plans for the wedding renewal so her mom could come down for the festivities next month.

True to her text, my wife called a short while later and we made our plans for the event until she was almost home. I took her choice for dinner out of the fridge and heated it up for her so she could eat as soon as she walked in the door. And I was waiting at the door, dressed to the nines in my best business casual, when she pulled in the driveway – exactly how she likes to see me. I kissed her passionately and told her how much it meant that she texted to let me know she’d call soon, that it felt good to matter enough to warrant the small gesture. She looked me up and down and accused me of flirting and said that I always mattered, but she could see why the text helped. She told me how much it meant to her that I took the night off the bike and went to our daughter’s tennis match.

This is a first for us – to think about the other, and the family, in such depth – it’s those little things that are deep; anyone can be there for the big things. For my wife, just a simple text to let me know she’s on her way and talking to her mom. For me, taking a night off cycling (or whatever hobby of the day I’m into) so I can be there for my daughter.

After my wife finished dinner, we wandered off to bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms, smiles on both our faces. My wife and I had a good marriage. When we think of the other enough to go out of our way, well it’s good times and noodle salad, folks. As good as it gets. The difference between good and fantastic.

Why I Asked My Wife to Marry Me Again…

I was out on a bike ride with my friend, Chucker last evening trying to come up with something to do for my wife for our 25th wedding anniversary.

We’ve gone through a complete transformation of our marriage in the last two months. We went from being committed and together to something truly special. We, almost simultaneously, went from battling each other to “win”, to doing the least amount of damage possible in a disagreement and negotiating for peace. We went from both of us losing to working things out to a level of satisfaction that was previously rare at best. From there, we were able to love each other more deeply than I thought was possible. It’s scary, I won’t lie, but it’s good.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t start this sooner. But it takes what it takes to get us where we need to be, so I’ll have to find a way to make my peace with it.

That line of thought led me to an idea. While Chucker and I were heading around our normal loop, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for my wife for our 25th anniversary. Now, she’s exceedingly particular about jewelry, so another ring is out. Her wrists are taken up with bracelets she likes, and she’s got quite a few necklaces. That got me to thinking; the events that have unfolded over the last couple of months are a small miracle. Going forward, things are going to be very different. The changes we’ve made are built on an entirely new, solid, foundation that began with our Higher Power (we call that HP God to keep it simple).

I made a lot of mistakes in the first 25 years. I built up protective walls that seemed like a good idea at the time but got in the way of loving my wife fully. They needed to be torn down. Once they were gone I realized just how much better I could have been to my wife and kids. “Should have” might be better. That realization changed me to my core and our marriage changed for the infinitely better almost immediately.

We have come to a place where I know for a fact, the next 25 years are going to be much better than the first 25. And so the next thought brought a smile to my face that lasted the rest of the night.

I could ask my wife to marry me again to start the next 25 years so I can give her the marriage she deserves. Not just good or passable, but great.

And so I asked my wife to marry me again in front of her dad and our daughters. Down on one knee, just like it should be done. I promised her the next 25 years would be much better than the first.

She said yes with happy tears in her eyes.

An Amazing Weekend on the Tandem… and A Great Mother’s Day Ride for My Wife.

We’re finally into some decent weather around here – about a month late. Normally, my first day cutting the grass is around the middle of April. This year, I just did the first swipe Saturday and Sunday. This has put a major damper on cycling – I don’t know anyone who is ahead in their mileage this year.

With that being said, my wife and I had an awesome morning on the tandem Sunday. The wind was horrible, though not because it was all that strong. In the single-digits (mph), the wind was quite livable. It got tricky in the direction. East-southeast switching to south-southeast means we’re stuck for places to ride. The traffic is too ridiculous heading east, so a push home is out of the question. South worked, though, so that’s what we went for… even if that meant bucking a bit of a crossing headwind on the way home.

We rolled out at 8 am to let it warm up a little (much needed, it was a little cold to start the morning) but quickly got into a nice groove.

And that says a lot about where my wife and I are at the moment. Saturday was a bit of a train wreck as we struggled with the group to get a decent rhythm going and our overall pace at the end of the ride showed it. Sunday was a complete turnaround, though. We had it going from the beginning and actually hit a section of road that’s normally fast in the upper 20s at the low 30s (mph – or 52-ish km/h). We were well over the 25-mph village speed limit and were actually brake-checked by a driver in a truck who’d just passed us. Thank God for good brakes.

We had a pile of tailwind miles next and we simply cruised. It had turned into one of those perfect days where we both worked perfectly together. In contrast to the day before, there were only a couple of times I had to pedal through my wife, and in a few instances she kicked it so hard on hills, I had to feather the brakes to keep from riding into another of the tandems’ back wheel.

We stopped at our normal gas station and shed some clothing. It had warmed up beautifully. I downed a gel and refilled my water bottle. With 15 miles to go, I didn’t want to risk bonking out because we were rocking it.

The final 14 miles of the 47-mile loop were fantastic. I anticipated we’d struggle a little as our max is usually around 40 miles but that never happened. I’d say my butt wasn’t too thrilled about the additional miles, but other than that the finish was great. We pulled into the driveway with an 18.1-mph average for the 47-1/3 miles. Pretty good, considering.

Yesterday was a day off and I’m attending a funeral for my wife’s aunt. We may or may not get a ride in. With good weather settled in for the foreseeable future, I can live with it however it turns out.

Why Did God Choose Me for His Grace? I Don’t Believe That’s the Right Question At All.

Have you ever wondered why God chose you to remain in recovery? Why did God’s grace work on you but not the next guy who ended up relapsed and dead? I know several people who are still trying to put their finger on “the reason”.

I’ve come to believe these are simply the wrong questions to ask. Do I think, for a minute, that God would distribute His grace unequally? He gives Suzy a little more grace than Bob, say? That’s something people might do, but I’d put God above that pettiness. A friend recently said, if you think of God as simply the nicest, best person you’ve ever met, you need to start over again. You’ve got it wrong.

Put that way, hopefully you can see unequivocally what changed when I got sober – I don’t think it was God. It was more the case that God, standing there when I broke down and asked for his compassion and to remove my desire to drink said, “I’ve been waiting for you. I’m glad you made it. Here you go.”

And with that my desire to drink was lifted. It wasn’t too complex.

I know that was exactly how I was spared from the spiral down the toilet bowl of life. My desire to quit drinking hit exactly when my desire to continue drinking hit a wall, and I took advantage of a break given to me by the legal system… the timing was impeccable and I wanted the pain to stop. But why?

The why is equally simple. I was spared to pass on my experience, strength and hope so that I might help other alcoholics follow the same path that led me to a new freedom and happiness that would be beyond belief if I didn’t look it in the mirror every morning. Why?

I believe God gives Grace out equally, to whoever asks for it. I simply choose not to miss out on those opportunities to ask for help, and accept it, and then pass on my experience just as freely as it was given to me.

I can tell you, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are massive, wonderful changes afoot in my life. My eyes have been opened to a whole new way of living, vastly superior to what I had a month ago. “Excited” doesn’t do what I’m feeling justice. More later…

A Fantastic Weekend on the Tandem… And My Family’s Golfing Torch is Passed.

This was a crazy, awesome weekend. First, my wife and I have been working on us, intensively, for a month. While we both remained committed to our marriage, let’s say we weren’t exactly working for happiness and peace as we could have for the last few years. No blame to either of us, we just needed to change things up. To that end, I started working with a professional last month and, along with some other means of improving my understanding of what it takes to be a better version of me, I’ve been able to make some much needed progress (think page 60 for those in the program). The difference and transformation has been intense, emotional, and difficult. And it’s been entirely worth the effort – and that effort started paying big dividends Friday. It was a breakthrough for us. Something we’ve needed for a long time now.

We had a busy day Friday, so no riding.

Saturday, my youngest had a big tennis match, so we rode early and logged 26-1/3 miles on the tandem before getting dressed and heading over to watch our girl play. That afternoon, I went golfing on an actual course for the first time in a long time, and it was good… though I was shown yet again that I’m not 40 anymore. I was sore Sunday morning. Being sore didn’t stop us from having an awesome ride on the tandem, though. We rolled out with a friend who’d been battling ailments for a month and was finally ready to give Sunday Funday a try. It went smashingly well – especially after I raised my wife and my saddles a millimeter or two (more on that in another post).

After a fantastic Sunday ride of 32-ish miles, we ate an early leftover roast beef lunch and headed out to a bike parade. After that, I texted my daughter to get ready and I headed home to take her to the driving range for the first time. I was excited, not only for having the opportunity to teach my kid to golf and pass on the torch my dad passed on to me, but to work with an empty canvas – my daughter had, until yesterday, never swung a golf club. She had no bad habits to fix!

She started out sluggish at first, as you’d expect, but as the lesson progressed, she really picked up on what she needed to… and she started striking the ball cleanly and putting exactly the right trajectory on the shot. Her first lesson couldn’t have gone better (heck, I wish I’d had that first lesson when I was a kid!). After the golf balls were all down range, we took our clubs and packed them into the car and headed home.

And my daughter has the bug. It is good.