Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Overcoming Challenges on and off the Bike

Hello all:

When I was 19 a work colleague must have (because I don't clearly remember now) convinced me that riding on a hard saddle over many miles is fun. It took and I bought a Miyata bicycle and put a few miles on those tires. And then college got to the front of the line and took hold -- so much for bicycling.

Fast forward 15 years (yikes) and yes, I lot more pounds. After many a year being off the bicycle, my wife kindly presented me with a Trek this past March knowing that the bike bug had bit about a year ago. Since about last summer I have traveled the roads of my neighborhood on my mountain bike thinking that if I stayed with it a year... perhaps I would take a more serious look at a road bike. No need... my 40th present (no Corvette for me thank you) now stood in the living room waiting for me to climb on.

So for the past few months I have begun to understand some intricacies of what is required to get on a bike trying to go just a little farther and a little faster than last time -- it's harder than one might think. I have learned to actually take pride in tenths of an average mph increase. I'm so perplexed by professionals that seem to average over 30 mph when I can only painfully push almost 17 on my own (perhaps the 50 lbs I carry over theirs is one reason). When I'm slower, the cyclocomputer constantly berates me with its little arrow that points down when my average speed is down. When I'm faster... that little computer is my friend. When I have an off day, I look at my log that goes back a year -- those completed miles motivate.

I've now completed just over 1000 miles since March.

Hard to believe because more than a few times I wondered not how but if I would make it back home. I do remember that when I was 19 it was never a matter of if... funny how age creeps into one's confidence. My rides have gone beyond my neighborhood with loops just a little longer each time. While distance over 20 miles once seemed insurmountable, the miles now seem to pass a little easier. 32 on my own is now possible, 50 on my own perhaps soon.

And as everyone with a hobby knows, one easily finds lots of online material and magazines to further the appetite for more. I know more about cogs, derailers, headsets and bike seats -- although no where near enough not to rely on a bike mechanic.

What was once largely painful, is now fun and challenging -- but honestly... still painful. I've read that perhaps like rowing, competitive biking is a matter of who is willing to suffer more... uh, suffering hurts. And I'm guessing that there's a lot of suffering to get better. I don't want to race, but I do want to be competitive among those I ride alongside. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing others ride up a hill and "being dropped" to fend for yourself to the end of the ride. I've read that signing up for a ride motivates one to ride out of the garage early in the morning.

So I've signed up. My name has been added to the form, been sent in and I'm committed.

70 miles from Richmond to Yorktown in late August. Then another distance about the same in September (about a month later) and then in October the goal of 100 miles (I'm guessing about 6 hours on the bike -- which sounds really painful).

Why? Maybe I'm racing against not just time but also age (I hear midlife crisis being uttered by some of you). Perhaps like golf, I'm competing against myself. I find it therapeutic to get caught in the rain as I did yesterday, enjoy being on a quiet road as the early morning sun rises ahead, laugh (and grimace) alongside others as we ride toward's the day's goal of speed or time, and wonder to myself what 100 miles will feel like.

So here's to overcoming challenges. The Ride for Jim challenge on the 22nd of August will be the next one. I've got this yellow bracelet around my wrist reminding me that others have been challenged by much more serious challenges - fighting cancer. When the hill ahead looks insurmountable or the distance yet to go seems too long to overcome... I look down at my Livestrong bracelet.

On August 22 I will ride to Yorktown and I will think of my own grandmother that I never met as she died of breast cancer decades before I had a chance to meet her.

I will also be thinking of you: Kristin M, Tracey W, Jeanette C, Scott M, Will B, Cindy W., Jennifer H., and Barbara Clark... and hopefully more supporters as the ride draws nearer. On the Ride for Jim website you've shared who in honor of you've contributed. Names that I've taken with me on my rides too.

Two weeks ago on an early morning ride I stopped at the bottom of hill for a drink of water. It was shortly before 7 am on a weekday morning. I had already ridden almost an hour with another to go. I was standing there on the side of the road, sweat running off the end of my nose thinking of those that had already sent in a contribution... perhaps they're not just spending their dollars on supporting cancer research I thought... but maybe they're also supporting my efforts that morning as I work toward meeting the 70 mile goal.

It was a motivating moment that led to my fastest time yet.

Thanks for your support everyone. I hope to share more as I try to make each of my "sponsors" proud of my achievement. Thanks for your belief in me and more importantly, thank you for spending your well-earned dollars toward supporting cancer research.

Until next time, I'll be thinking of you when my legs scream at me to stop... to which I'll remember your commitment to my efforts. It really does have nothing to do with the bike.


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