Penultimate. I used to think that meant a really great writing instrument. (Actually, I didn’t; I just made up that pun right now.) Anyway, November has ended, and December has begun. Eleven months down, one to go. I’ve already surpassed the number of miles from my second longest year, the first one I kept records. That was 5,306 miles in 2016, and now I’m on the cusp of 6,000 miles for 2020. Since I’ve already achieved my huge goal of the equivalent of once around the equator (24,901 miles), anything else is gravy. Yummmm…. gravy. Anyway, here’s a short review of my statistics from last month.
The way I’ve gone about making major mileage this year is by riding my bicycle daily. As in Every. Single. Day. Lately that’s been 22.2 miles, or 156 a week. I had an off week of 80 miles, and later a good week of 175 miles, so I just keep doing the math to make the weekly and monthly targets. These are what — barring death, injury or illness — will bring me to the ultimate annual goal. Which on the scale of hero to zero falls somewhere in between “Prettay, prettay, prettay good!” and “No one gives a fuck, dude.” Where exactly depends on who’s doing the measuring.
WRITER’S NOTE: Any and all cursing in my writing is all comedian Lewis Black’s fault, by the way, by way of Keiran’s Bullshit Humor blog. Screw you both for screwing up my previously family-friendly blog. Just kidding. It’s actually my mom’s fault for introducing me to Richard Pryor and George Carlin 8-track tapes when my brother and I were kids. And they cursed at government, society and white men especially. Also stupid people, Congress, and racists. Those things ruin everything. Happy now?
Anyhoo, bicycling. Yeah, 22 miles isn’t a long way by itself for many people. But every single day? That sure as shitfire adds up. THere’s no margin for error if there’s an injury. You suck it up and ride through it. Saddle sore? Shin splints? Not feeling like it? Tought titties. (Hey, men have them too.) Cold? Rainy? Well, for the last tow, you can use a Garmin speed meter attached to the rear hub, and that counts distance. I did that Saturday when it had ben raining all day, then got dark and cold. I cranked out the 22 by hooking old Sophie The Fairdale to an old-school steel stand with a roller. I watched a movie, too. Bond girl Olga Kurylenko kicking ass? Yes, please (and more yum)!
Here’s what I wrote in the notes in my Strava entry for the last ride of the month:
Ending Real Feel temperature was about 36 degrees F. It was 6,000.00 miles even, but I had to crop 1/10th so December will be the number I want. Fun with decimals and numerology. I’ve been slowing down, and it’s easy to blame the cooler weather. But after averaging 22 miles a day for a while, and almost 18 a day for the year to date, I’m just tired. Maybe something else is going on beside lack of sleep and rest days, but let’s hope not. Anyway, I’ve blown the past four years mileage out of the water so don’t have much left to prove to myself. I’ve been fortunate to have the time (instead of money) to bike so much. Which let’s face it, I need that time because I’m not fast. Sometimes people run faster than I’m biking for short distances. But that’s ok. The tortoise always wins, at least in the fable. And the only person I’m competing with is me. So like Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.
I guess if there’s a lesson for you, Dear Reader, it’s that if I busted my ass, you can bust your ass, too. If what I do helps inspire you (like it did Tempo Cyclist down under in Tasmania, Australia, who attempted 30 consecutive days of cycling, or my friend Saurabh, who just completed 30 days of activity whereas before he was hardly doing anything because I challenged him to do so (and then harangued him mercilessly), then great. If it makes you feel superior because you’ve biked 7,000 or more miles this year so far, or ran or swam a significant distance, then that’s also cool. And for anyone else who reads this and has some other reaction, I’d love to hear it.
Austin had great, almost summery weather a month later than usual. It barely rained, either. Neither are great for the environment, but they make bicycling and other outdoor activities very appealing. It’s important during a killer pandemic to, when allowed, escape the house for some fresh air, aerobic exercise, and even seeing the other humans (from a distance, with a mask when passing closely like on the trail).
AN ASIDE/REALITY CHECK: It seems folly to write things like this blog sometimes. Plenty of people are dead, or sick in the hospital or at home dying from the virus. Who cares about a little bike blog? Well, just a few people is right. But if you’re not working in the health care field, Just Keep Living seems like words to live by. Do carry, bike, run, swim, walk, yoga (and read) on.
In other areas of the country and world, weather makes exercising outdoors a lot more challenging. If you have the right gear, great, go for it! But if the weather is too bad, having to choose between risking an infectious viral disease or not exercising is bad news. So hopefully a third way can be found. Maybe it’s going up an down stairs of your New York high-rise. Or shoveling snow. Perhaps getting a cheap or unwanted for free stationery bike or treadmill. Push ups and sit ups, chair yoga at work, the possibilities for movement are available to many who are committed.
And maybe that’s a good point to try to start wrapping this up on. Should I be committed (to an asylum for the exercise-deranged?) FFS, no! I’m just working towards a goal, and it’s hard, but it’s in sight. The end is near, the finish of the year. Whether it will change me is not the question. How it has, in ways both visible and unseen, remain to be seen. And even that defeats the purpose (name of my sex tape and punk rock band). Biking is time-consuming, especially if you’re not fast. It’s uncomfortable, at times it can be painful. It’s a crucible. It tests you, challenges you, pushes you. It’s a ticket to other realms — streets you have not seen, and views of your inner self you may have forgotten were there or have never seen. Riding every day has to mean something, right?
Maybe yes, maybe not. Who knows? But I am aware that there’s something ineffable about all these bike rides. I draw lines on the earth in terms of the maps that my Garmin watch records and uploads onto Strava the fitness app. But as soon as I turn the pedal that moment is gone forever. I think of my rides rather like a Tibetan sand mandala. There are beautiful works of art that take days of intense concentration for Buddhist monks to make. They then destroy it. It symbolizes both impermanence and non-attachment. One can no more attach themselves to an imaginary line drawn on a map as they can to the view of a sunset, a butterfly landing on a flower, or a breath. The sun sets, the butterfly flits away, the breath is replaced by another.
Everything changes. Everyone is born, and dies. (Also, everyone poops.) In this relatively short time we have here on Planet Earth, one can simply hope to live to ride another day. To serve and have compassion for others. Perhaps if you’re lucky you will experience — but shouldn’t get attached to — some moments of happiness. Whether that’s a stroll in your neighborhood, a bike ride outside of your comfort zone, or whatever flight of fancy like skydiving (I did that once!) — that’s up to you. But consider this: we contain multitudes, all the colors of a rainbow, capable of great acts of beauty, and also stupid shit like war, poverty and famine. Life is both creation and destruction. We are each destined to become that grain of sand that gets washed away in the sands of time. I guess we each must make the most of life in the ways that work for us. For me, that’s been biking a fucking long way. Maybe no one (or very few) give a fuck, but I’m gonna go with prettay, prettay, prettay good.
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