As summer winds down and autumn finally cools us off, my stock is trending upward and quarterly reports are good. By that I mean my bicycling progress, of course. As mentioned in my post 55-Mile 2020 Birthday Bike Ride with Friends; 5,009 Miles for the Year, I’ve surpassed 2019’s total miles of 5,005. And, that was 81 days early, too. While I continue to come nowhere close to breaking any wind, um speed records, like the tortoise and the hare, I’m not the fastest dude, but I do get there. The race is on to cram as many kilometers as possible into the rest of this most shitty of years, 2020. And it occurred to me while naming last night’s ride that my formula for success is simple, although far from easy. Allow me to explain.
Muscles aren’t just literally the meaty mass that propel my pedals vigorously in a circular motion. (Yes, that’s an obscure Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention lyric from Nanook Rubs It.) Muscles are a metaphor for motion, power, and mass. Most of us have a body, and I’m fortunate to still be able to use mine. So if your body also can move a bicycle for hours at a time, you too could do what I do (if you wanted to). Or even if you could only handcycle, for example. Some amount of literal muscles are required to grind up those hills or to ease on down the road.
My legs are in decent shape, but since I’m a fathlete, so there is a protective coating over my sinews. We are all defined and in many cases somewhat limited by our genetics in this regard. In my case, there’s also a strong lack of willingness to hurt myself lifting weights in a gym. (One might also die of boredom doing that.) Biking may or may not make you a lean mean hill-climbing, road-racing, sprinting machine. It will build up your legs, just maybe not to the huge getaway stems of a pro. I just bicycled every single day for a year and it didn’t bulk up my quads. You use what you’ve got.
Might, for me, means the will to accomplish something no matter what external or internal obstacles may arises. One must have some sort of drive (pun intended) to power through 100 miles or more a week as I have at my age and weight. Some days (or more often lately, nights) require a huge dose of will to get myself kitted up, out the door and onto the bike. It helps to have a destination. But this is not your normal will power. It’s a voice that says “Failure is not an option!” and “Get your fat butt up off of that couch and onto your bicycle seat and ride, dammit!” It’s that internal coach, one who is definitely challenging, but uses compassion, not yelling. (See my post Coaching Your Self with Compassion Instead of Criticism.)
On nights that I’m tired, or it’s cold, windy, raining (or all three of those), I still find within me some reservoir of mental force that is a kind of mind over matter. I believe it’s like a muscle, but in the brain. Used enough, it becomes stronger and stronger, and thus more capable of overcoming resistance of various kinds. Everyone has this capacity at some level, I’ve just developed mine a fair bit over the last almost five years. Maybe too much. You can too, if you set your mind to it, want to, and have the time.
Math. Well, this is not too complicated. I pick a yearly goal of miles I want to complete, and break that down by month, week and day. In previous years, I’d allow for rest days. Not over the last year. That makes it easier in some respects, because I don’t have to plan longer rides; I do less, but every day. In other ways, it’s harder. Riding daily doesn’t allow for much recovery and if injured, well, too bad, so sad. If I come up short one day, I recalculate and make it up the next day, or successive several days.
The math part is motivating for me, though. I tend to increase my goals as the year goes on. I did it last year, which you can see by the 719 miles I biked in December 2019. I started out as I have the last three years thinking I would just do 80 miles a week, which is 4,000 a year. Last year I did 5,000. This year, I was just going to do enough to get me to my overarching goal.
But as the daily riding kept happening, that goal came up sooner and is right around the corner. Then a friend said, well, if you’re going to do that, may as well do a little more and make it a round number. I mentioned a higher goal here and someone here on the blog said, too bad, you’ll be a little short of another big number. And finally I figured may as well make it another symbolic number. Anything I do over my original goal is icing on the cake. Which I stopped eating, though I guess icing is still on the menu.
That’s it for now. Just 76 days left in 2020. With the US election, pandemic, economy and so on, where it all goes, nobody knows. We take it one day at a time. As long as my muscles, might, and math work, I know I’ll be out there bicycling and making my mileage. Some day maybe there’ll even be some rest.
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