Oops, I did it again! I beat last year by 490 miles! (See 2018’s recap at 5,143 Miles in 2018: 4,554 Biking + 589 Walking. Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good for A Dude!) Almost all of that difference, 452 miles, was by bike. It came down to the wire, too, since I didn’t make it until the last day of the year. Seeing how my beginning goal was 4,000 miles by bike, adding another 1,000 — most of it (712) in December alone — was a ton of hard work every day. Let’s take a look at the numbers. You may find them instructive, interesting, or maybe even inspirational. Or another word starting with the letter I. And remember, there’s no I in team, but there is meat. Mmm… meat.
I began riding every day from my birthday. A few of the rides I only managed a mile or two, so they were essentially rest days. For the most part, though, I was averaging over 20 miles a day. And that adds up quickly. For December, 712 miles cycling was my second best — only 9 miles short of the 721 I did in April 2017. That was when I did my double century (202 miles) for the MS 150. Walking over 50 miles every month really pushed me over the top.
These may just seem like random meaningless numbers if you don’t ride a bike. And as I often mention as a disclaimer of sorts, I’m not a young, rail-thin racer. So every mile pedaled takes effort, and of course those going uphill are challenging. Downhill is easier but not without risk. Staying upright with the rubber side down by avoiding hazards, keeping out of harm’s way in terms of traffic, and in general moving myself through space under my own power are all aspects of the sport that make it difficult, but also rewarding.
There were numerous close calls with cars, but I arrived alive with no crashes, tickets or incidents (a few minor falls, though) and have the numbers and tired legs and brain to prove it. Also, for the first year in three, no one yelled “I’m gonna knock yo’ bitch ass offa that bike!” That’s progress, I guess.
How I Did It
When I saw how far down I was in early October due to suffering through a sinus infection and then being off the bike for good chunks of August and September because of work, I figured I’d have to settle for my lower, original goal. But a combination of factors was in my favor.
- Time off work. I was able to take off work, but in fact for most of the year I just didn’t have any jobs. So I took advantage of that and made biking my part-time, unpaid job. I rode 5,306 miles in 2016 when I had a full-time job, so “not having time” is not really an excuse. However, I have the good fortune to have relatively affordable rent, plus no kids, wife or dog to attend to. Still, it’s doable. Especially if you’re faster than I am, ride tandem with your partner, tow the kids in a trailer, or use a home trainer that counts miles.
- Good weather. September was a record hot month in central Texas, quite likely due to global warming, beating even July’s heat. So when things finally chilled out in October, it was generally perfect riding weather. November and December were largely nice, too. When it got wet, windy and cold, I just suited up and powered through despite the suffering. Proper bike attire helps, like the shoe covers I was nicely gifted by a super nice guy at the bike shop.
- Determination and dedication. I have these qualities — sometimes too much. Numbers motivate me for some reason. It’s a way to keep track and to have something to strive for. I simply calculated what I needed to do to reach the bigger goal and then broke that down by the number of days remaining in the year. This was a constant practice, adjusting for weather, scheduling conflicts, and how I felt on any given day. But as I got closer to the goal, stopping seemed unthinkable. You have to really want your goal. Losing weight would be a nice side benefit, but it never seems to happen for me unless I go on a starvation diet, which ain’t happenin’. Biking makes me hungry, so I eat, and I have a genetic predisposition to stockiness in the family, plus a slow metabolism. So sue me! Point is, I GOT IT DONE. That feels pretty damn good.
- That ineffable, undefinable quality. I’ve been car-free (not owning but I have borrowed,so far extra light maybe). That anniversary is almost 15 years – three weeks from today, actually. If course I enjoy riding my bike, but it can get to be a chore at times. So tapping into that feeling of freedom of being a kid, moving through time and space under your own power with the wind on your face (not in your hair, because you have a helmet on, right?!), and simply rediscovering the joy of biking can keep you going a long time.
There’s really no secret to making a mileage goal, whether it’s 1,000, 5,000 or 12,000, but there are some rules and tricks. First, I treated achieving this goal though workman-like practice. I’d still make myself ride when I didn’t want to or was tired because this was like the Prime Directive. Also, we’d t lmaces nd hate the slow-ass bus. Sometimes I’d take a nap or sleep in first, so I did that as needed. Another way I psyched myself out was that when I had errands to run, I’d figure out the mileage I needed for the day and then add in other stops along the way and add in a few joy ride miles. It could be the co-op grocery to get snacks and water and to use their bathroom, go back to where I live to rest and then make another loop, or by joining a group social ride. Sometimes I would go out a long way so I’d have to come back.
Other things I did included going to Sun and Ski Sports, Bicycle Sport Shop and The Peddler, which were some favorite pit stops. I’d try to make longer joy rides happen on the weekends to make up for miles lost during the week when doing job search activities. I used numbers to cajole myself into going “just a little bit farther.” Instead of 28, why not 30? If I needed to finish my ride by doing laps around the neighborhood to reach an even or round number, I would. You won’t find that many 19-mile rides in my Strava feed. Just refusing to use the bus except in the worst weather was another method. Really there are plenty of ways to get the job done; much of it is believing in your abilities and turning off the television/computer/phone. Though I do those things too. I’m not a robot. At least I don’t think I am. How does one really know?
What Else Did I Learn (That You Can Use)?
Well, I learned that I’ve still got IT, some mojo, or whatever. You probably do too, to some degree. And whatever your IT is, it can be repeated and improved on with the right combination of factors, like above. But there’s no substitute for doing the work. Whatever your sport, it won’t do itself. Be judicious in your efforts, and rest a lot more than do, but if you have the ability and desire, then why not go for it? A goal of miles, time, distance, or something else can all be motivational. I applied much of the same ideas to walking, plus I’d add music or sometimes walk with a friend.
Teamwork is still key. Yes, I ride my bike by myself. But I have my mechanic buddies Mike and Byron and supporters like Trent, J.J. the Man(ager) and others at Sun and Ski, as well as Mitchell, Joe, Tim and Wade at Bicycle Sport Shop, plus Finley, Nick, and Walter at The Peddler. (Apologies if I’ve missed someone.) There are friends who might occasionally ride with me and fellow advocates for safer streets like Sam. There are the kudos and kind words from someone half-way around the world in Strava, or here on this blog. A big thanks to everyone involved.
You’ll want to give up. You’ll have bad days, and worse days. Don’t give in, don’t do it. If you get a flat tire, you don’t throw the wheel away, you fix it. If your horse goes lane, you don’t shoot it. (Wait,they hiit itses,don’t they?) Same as with any injury, illness or other problem. Maybe you have to adjust your goal — even professionals are human — and that’s ok. But maybe you need something else. Time, healing, a mental break from your sport, to go slower. Find a friend to ride with or to complain to. Sure, take breaks, rest, eat, drink, be merry. Then start again.
Well, that’s a good bit of what I did to kick some butt (mostly my own) on the bicycle. There may be more to add later, but that’s enough for now. I did it! 5,000 miles in a year — and a pretty shitty year in other ways off the bike, at that! But I’ll have this accomplishment as long as I’m alive (and can remember it), and as the song goes, no, they can’t take that away from me.
How did you do with your 2019 goals? Any comments about mine? Share below.
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