The week began slowly. I only managed to average about 12 miles a day when I’m meant to do 15. For 2022, I haven’t set any new goals or made any New Years resolutions. I’m just sort of coasting on auto-pilot from last year. After 5,555.55 miles in 2021, and 6,666.66 in 2020, and riding every day for over 800 days in a row, I have now passed 32,000 miles in just over six years on Strava*. (I started in very late December 2015 and it took five days of 2022 to hit that number, so call it six years and two weeks). That got me to thinking about what I did pre-Strava. The actual total mileage I estimate is much higher. Actually, I’ve bicycled about 45,000 miles in 17 years. (As for whatever I did in childhood and adolescence, into college and young adulthood, I’ve no clue. I could guess 5,000, but it would be a total guess.)
My car was smashed by a guy in a pick-em-up truck in 2005, which is when I began a 15-year period of being car-free. I arrive at this number because I’m guessing I rode 1,000 miles each for 2005-2014 (10,000). I didn’t go far and took the bus a lot. I know what I did about in 2015 because I used Google Maps and went on charity training rides, so that’s fairly accurate (3,000). Since I got Strava and later a Garmin watch, 2016-present is well-documented (32,000). So, 10,000 + 3,000 + 32,000 = 45,000. All told, that’s an average of 2,647 miles a year, 220.58 miles a month, 50.75 miles a week, or 7.25 miles a day (about 45 minutes a day). Whatever the actual number of miles is, it has taken a ton of effort, blood, sweat, and maybe even a few tears. It sure is a lot of T.I.T.S. (Time In The Saddle)!
You’d think by now I’d have some amazing deep understanding of how bikes, habits, streaks — and especially myself — all work. A kind of enlightenment or mastery or some other pithy phrase in which to encapsulate it all. Yet in hundreds of these blogs (660 at this point before this one), with many thousands of words (enough for several books), I still feel as if I do not know very much. I mean, I do know how to change a flat, where a bunch of shortcuts and potholes and port-a-potties are, and how to bike and not die on the mean streets of Austin, Texas.
But I also don’t know much about the technical aspects of the various kinds of bikes; anything about mountain, gravel, or BMX biking; tires, gears, and the many other parts and repairs; and so on. And I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m OK with that. Because as they say in Buddhist circles, it’s a good thing to have “beginner mind.”
(Speaking of beginners, my bike memoir is languishing languorously (like many of our bodies and brains have been during the thus far never ending COVID-19 pandemic). It’s undergoing a slow and painful third rewrite but usually only when I meet with two writing buddies. Maybe in those pages I will make some sense of it all. I wouldn’t bet on it, though I may surprise myself and actually finish it someday. Perhaps even get it published, or more like self-publish it. I found this book in the library the other day, so I’m sure I’ll polish it right off.)
I suppose with the new year, I’m doing what a lot of people are, which is reflecting on another year. It began with the riot at the Capitol which was soon followed by an epic snowstorm with power and water outages across most of Texas. Then vaccines became widely available, the surge died down, and there was some normalcy then even some hope. But then, delta, and booster, then more tragedy, divisiveness, fires, floods, shootings, political discord. And now, omicron. So with that backdrop, it’s hard to care much about some dude biking slowly on flat roads for not a huge distances, even if it’s every day. I get that in the big picture, we’re all barely even a fraction of a pixel. It’s still Winter in America. And Winter in America — Still.
Still, life goes on. I have to ask what are my goals for 2022, not just activities, but in LIFE? The last few years it’s been to do less mileage, but has ended up being more than I planned. It’s always easier to ride my bike than do the hard work of introspection, or cleaning, or getting a job, and so on. I do think 100 miles a week is a reasonable number, but it does take 10 hours a week. Add in 14 more for yoga, walking, reading, and writing, and that’s one complete day of every week gone. Of course it’s not gone; I’ve chosen that time and gotten something out of it. Enjoyment, learning, fitness (even if I still deal with fatness), self-awareness, skill. Seeing stuff I wouldn’t see while just sitting in the recliner (I do plenty of that, too) has been a highlight. I’m sad for the old me and people who can’t or don’t get outside.
But after a long and relatively lucky streak, this year I really must start back to work, which will definitely suck a ton of time and energy out of me and all these activities. Yet, for my last two years on my last real job, the first two years I tracked (2016-17), I managed to bike 10,000 miles. Having repeated that amount two more times (plus 2,000) is pretty surprising to me most of all. But now I’m older, and slower, and using a heavier bicycle with 18 fewer gears. Sustaining all of my streaks doesn’t seem realistic. Yet, the idea of letting any of go of them is quite hard. But when it comes down to it, I’ll do what I have to do. I’ve been spoiled by places with roofs, toilets, air conditioning, refrigerators, electricity, etc. As the old saw goes, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”
One could reasonably question if all of this working out is bearing fruit. Are there any hard core, measurable, real world benefits to all my efforts? For example, in 2021 did I lose weight? Take inches off my waist? Increase the size of my quadriceps, gastrocnemius, gluteus, or biceps? Decrease my body mass index (BMI)? Is my average speed in miles per hour any faster? Can I hold yoga poses, or my breath, longer? Am I getting more minutes of sleep, and quality deep and REM sleep? In all cases I would say the answer is no. So why do all this stuff if I’m not getting results? Well, the short answer is I don’t know. The glib one is Because it’s there. The best one is probably, If I DON’T do these things, the results would be far worse. And still I ride, and walk, and pose. You can start moving, too.
The answer, if there really is one, is much more of an internal thing. I’ve shared my journey and thoughts about it, extensively in this blog. I suppose I’ve inspired or entertained a few people, and I’m grateful for that opportunity, the readers, and the feedback that I have received. Sometimes, I’m not sure how much more there is to say about what I do. Do we need to understand everything about our motivations or the results (or lack thereof) to get on a bike, on the yoga mat, or out on the sidewalk? No. I hate to quote this slogan, but I’ve realized after all this time that there is something to it: Just Do It.
Ultimately, (if you are able), you have to get out there and create your own adventures. Whether it’s through sport, art, or whatever other outlet, there’s no substitute for fighting your own battles and living to tell the tale. Even if you’re stuck at home, in most cases you can do something a little more than what you though. Breathe. Meditate. Stretch. Curl a liter bottle like a weight. Read more books. Record your own story. Whatever it is, I encourage you to nudge yourself. And I wish you well doing it.
The last words go to the multi-talented Steve Martin. Like him, I’m a ramblin’ guy.
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