6,666.66 miles: That’s how far I bicycled in 2020. Add in about 611 miles of walking, and that’s 7,278 miles I traveled on my own power. (By the way, almost 4 miles were swimming, which I started right before, you know, IT.) By IT of course I mean the novel coronavirus pandemic, aka COVID-19, which might quite possibly be the work of Satan, if he exists (I’m not a believer). But the other Devil in my analogy is the person in charge of getting the United States of America through this mess, which instead he made worse. He dropped the ball big-time, and is about as far away from godliness as you can get. So he’s the other evil one: Future Ex-President Tinyhands Orangehead. Whether you’re a religious person or not, I think we can all agree that 2020 was a Devil of a year (or two Devils).
Of course I’m well aware that in the context of 1,800,000+ people having died (and counting) from the ‘rona that my sports achievement pales in comparison. After all, this is a blog about one dude’s bike journey, not public health. But my biking every day during the plague so far was how I tried to stay healthy and to deal with the whole dumpster fire that was 2020. Keeping fit is an ongoing struggle, and I decided that continuing to bike every day would help me cope mentally, as well. Accomplishing my goal took an incredible amount of effort. It was the equivalent of biking from far eastern Maine on the Atlantic Ocean across the US to western Washington state on the Pacific Ocean… and back. While all of my journey was around Austin and was (mostly) heavenly, doing all that biking was in some ways my own trip to hell. Let’s go to the Strava stats. The Devil’s in the details, after all.
This post was actually going to be titled El Diablo Doble / The Double Devil. That’s because, if you’re into Christian numerology (I am not), 666 is the so-called “mark of the beast,” aka Lucifer. See, I figured I can’t do much about COVID-19, except follow the advice of science and medical doctors. I have been fortunate to have survived it — so far. Yay, me. But it’s not yay for everyone who got sick, is still sick, died, or was related to any of those people. This year of exercise is my biggest achievement since I began in 2015, but in the context of this historical moment, again, perspective is useful. It’s simultaneously a big deal and also insignificant. But Strava only counts total miles with one decimal point. Still, I like the catchy, bilingual sound of EDD/TDD.
Why that number, 666 twice? Well, on one hand, we have the virus, which is evil. On the other, we have the situation with our government, whose current leader many also feel isn’t the godliest person on the planet. I felt like the Number of the Beast was an appropriate way to commemorate 2020, quite possibly the worst year for humans in a century. Of course I don’t believe in a god or devil or that the number means anything. As for how it became my goal, it’s just math. I started out after 5,005 miles in 2019 planning to ride 5,500 miles, which would get me to 24,901 miles – the equivalent of the equator.
Then Saurabh, my “do you even bike, bro?” friend, said “too bad you can’t make it 6,000.” I did the math of that number minus the miles already traveled divided by the days left in the year. And started riding more. Then, one of my bike blog buddies across the pond (Idle Cyclist, I believe, who is anything but idle) said, “too bad you can’t make it to 6,214, which his 10,000 kilometers.” So I repeated the math and added even more miles. At some point I said to myself, “too bad I can’t make it 6,666.66, because that would be kinda funny, and it’s also two-thirds of 10,000 miles.” I recalculated the effort I would have to do, and concluded it was doable.
Now that I’ve done it, I’m reminded of something fellow blogger, mostly runner, sometimes indoor stationary bike rider, and frequent commenter and supporter of A Dude and all around nice guy Sorryless said in a comment (paraphrasing): “Isn’t it interesting when you meet a goal, but you pretty much already knew you were going to make it the whole time?” It feels true to me, because I put in the effort diligently, determinedly, and daily. I wrote a post about the let-down after achieving a goal, and I’m sure I’ll feel that. But today there’s not a sense of self-congratulation (well, some), but more a feeling of affirmation: “Well, that happened. Of course! I did it, and I knew that I would.”
I’m not sure how I knew this, I just did. Any number of things could have sidelined me, least of all COVID-19. Also injury from a crash with a car, some other illness, saddle sores, fatigue, heat exhaustion (I think I had that a few times this past summer), a job, or that old standby, alien abduction. Whether biking daily in a pandemic was a good idea, I don’t know. I kind of doubt it, because it wears down the body and mind, which need rest. In the early days, it was quiet and the roads were empty. Then bikes became all the rage and I had to… gasp! share. The more the merrier, I say.
Now after all my “epic velocimania,” as Sam once called it, rest is what my body and mind shall have. Well, at least fewer miles and T.ime I.n T.he S.addle. I’ve already begun tapering, as I described in my last post. In 2021, I only need to ride 3,333.34 miles to keep up my 5,000 miles per year average. And I’m toying with just going by time and trusting the distance will work out. An hour a day is plenty of cycling, especially if I do it at home on the trainer where I can go faster for a shorter period of time. I’m sure I’ll still be out there, stinking it up with the rest of everyone else. Maybe some longer rides. But less, a lot less.
To me, the whole journey has been sort of a surreal mystery, sometimes like I’m dreaming it. When I began training for my first charity ride in January of 2015 six years ago (another reason for the symbolic mileage goal), I had no idea that I could or would be doing this much bike riding. Now that I have, I think it’s time to tone it down, dial it back, and give it a rest. The same may go for this blog, too. Three a week can be a lot sometimes. The point to blogging was to tell my story and to practice for writing a book, which I’ve done. Getting it published is a whole other mountain to climb. Maybe I’ll have more time with less biking, though I have other plans like working on my upper body, reading, and reluctantly joining the workforce again at some point.
So we’ll see what 2021 brings. No one knows what’s coming. Anyone who says they know is a liar or a damn fool. The future really is unknown, ineffable, a mystery. As for heaven and hell, devils and gods, I’m an agnostic athiest on the subject. A famous singer-songwriter I once met summed it up well in the chorus of her song that became the theme for The Leftovers, an excellent HBO spiritual thriller / drama I’m watching created by Damon Lindelof of LOST fame:
Everybody is wondering what and where
They all came from
Everybody is worrying about where they're going to go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be
—Iris DeMent, “Let the Mystery Be,” from Infamous Angel, 1992
Let’s put the Double Devils of 2020 in our rear view mirror. There’s even a phrase for that: “Devil, get thee behind me!” On one hand, we have two Angels coming our way. First is the vaccine that’s starting to be given out. Let’s hope that enough people take the vaccine for us to eliminate the scourge of coronavirus. On the other, although far from perfect, we have President Joe Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris. At least they seem to believe more in government of, by and for the people. May our better angels — whatever you may call them or believe them be — lead us all to a happier new year in 2021. I wish you all well on your journeys into the mystic.
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