The Drive to Drink

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“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

After a summer and fall spent waking up before sunrise to ride my mountain bike, I learned a handful of lessons. Sadly, none answered any of life’s burning questions or offered any deep insight into my being. Instead, they confirmed suspicions I already had, the most notable one being that waking up early sucks. It also shattered the myth that the more you do something, the easier it gets…which I can confirm is total bullshit—waking up early never got any easier. But, honestly, the most interesting thing I learned this summer is that I love chocolate milk.

I’m not sure how I stumbled into my new-found passion for chocolate milk, although I suspect it dates back to my wife once citing a Runner’s World article that claimed chocolate milk was one of the best things to consume following a workout. While milk sounded okay, I have long subscribed to the idea of a recovery beer, in spite of the shaky evidence supporting its benefits—okay, almost no evidence supporting its benefits—but even I struggle to justify chugging a beer at eight o’clock in the morning. With beer out of the equation, the search was on for a reward for getting out of bed and riding as the sun came up.

As the summer went on, I got into the practice of stopping at the grocery store to shop for dinner supplies on my way home from biking, where a couple more lessons were taught: (1) shopping at the grocery store is a much more pleasant experience when it’s empty, which it almost always is if you get there before nine AM; and (2) the old saying about not shopping when you’re hungry could not be more true. As I wandered through the grocery store each morning, I was reminded of how long it had been since my pre-ride snack and how far away breakfast was. (I mean, sure, breakfast was really only a few more minutes away, but after a hard ride, it may as well have been an eternity.) Roaming the aisles, I would salivate through the bakery section and drool my way past the cookies as my empty stomach rumbled for sustenance. Until I ambled into the dairy section and came face to face with a bottle of chocolate milk.

The first moment I saw that delicious bottle of chocolate milk, my wife’s voice popped into my head saying you know, chocolate milk is actually kind of good for you. The second moment, the lid was off the bottle and I was guzzling that delightful dark liquid right there in the middle of the milk aisle. Had I just stumbled into the perfect recovery routine? Chocolate milk is good for me, I can drink it while I shop—I think…no one has stopped me yet, anyway—and is filling enough to tide me over until I get home to make breakfast. I imagine this is how Einstein must have felt when he discovered the theory of relativity.

Over the course of summer and fall, chocolate milk became ingrained in my routine, although I moved on from the single-serving bottles I so happily consumed while shopping to gallon jugs I can store at home. It turns out that I can display some patience after all, as long as I know there’s a tall glass of chocolate milk waiting for me. Even though I have put the bike away for the winter, chocolate milk is here to stay. These days, it serves as a nice reward/recovery drink for waking up and going to the gym, while hot chocolate—basically just warm chocolate milk—is the perfect beverage for accompanying me on winter hikes and ski trips.