Birthday. The word strikes joy in a child’s heart but apathy or fear in adults. As we age, it seems more and more people care less and less about celebrating birthdays, either theirs or others’. Presents, gifts and cards dwindle. After just ending a very tiring job earlier in the week, and with rain and wind arriving as part of a cold front the morning of my special day, I had not made many plans.
But I still wanted to set out on my now fourth annual quest to bike my age in miles while collecting freebies. While I didn’t hit my goal, I did manage to complete my longest day in the saddle since August 15th (about when the job really kicked off) and my longest ride since June 30th. What follows are some images and info about my day.
Saturday brought me several opportunities as a bicyclist and advocate. First up was the appearance at the neighborhood association by one of the 10 City Council members of Austin, Texas. His name is Gregorio Casar, the son of Mexican immigrants, but he goes by Greg. He really knows his stuff, is genuine, friendly, and not pretentious at all. I believe he is the youngest Council member ever. Second was a Smart Trips Austin ride. It’s a City program to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation including walking, the bus, and of course bikes. It was super hot, so it was sparsely attended, but I wanted to check it out and meet the two young staff people just the same. Third was I added 27 miles for a 30-mile ride. ‘Twas a pretty good day, if you ask me. Oh, you’re asking me? OK, I’ll tell you about it, then!
Hey there! Yes, you, reading this blog. Let me say thank you. I really appreciate it. You’re one of a select, special number of people who will see this. That’s pretty cool. Sure, it might be nice if thousands saw it, but I kinda like it like this. It’s more intimate. Although I’ve never met most of you, it’s like I’m telling a handful of friends about my bike ride. So yeah, let me tell you about it. Continue reading →
Yesterday morning I slept in to recover from watching Avengers: Infinity War Saturday night with movie pal Larry. I eventually got out there on a beautiful day to take a lazy Sunday walk. Once home, I made a smoothie and languished around the casita. I thought it was Mother’s Day so I called up dear mom. I was a week early, but news was exchanged. Despite some challenges, it was nice to connect, and I was reminded that I got my tenacity from her. She can be like a dog guarding it’s bone if you didn’t want to refund all her money for returning something to the store. I can get that way on the bike, and you better not fucking tell me otherwise. Someone once told me they didn’t think I could ride 100 miles, and I went out and did just that. (107 miles, to be exact.)
Preparation for Take-Off
After the call, trying to find the motivation to write and do yoga, I remembered to take my vitamins and made a late lunch. It was sweet and russet potatoes with pork loin and a nice big salad. Looming large in my mind was the question of whether to go for my third 100-mile week on the bike in a row. The brain was tired and just wanted to go see another movie, but the legs had other plans. “Shut up, legs!” is a famous slogan by retired pro Tour rider Jens Voight (also his book title). But they would not, so I decided I would stop thinking about it and Just Do It.
Normally you want to be well-rested, fed and hydrated, and get an early start. But if you’re like A Dude and on a later schedule (thanks South by Southwest!), you can still do most of that. Planning ahead I knew that I might be out after dark, so I had my back-up light. I put in some snacks: a non-caffeinated Gu gel, Gu gel blocks, Nuun hydration tab in one of two water bottles, a chocolate peanut butter packet, and an Oatmega protein bar. Knowing I’d be able to refill my water and buy snacks as needed at convenience stores, I wasn’t as loaded down as I might be going on a ride in the country. The only snack I got though was a Think Thin chocolate brownie flavor sugar free protein bar. If only thinking one is thin made it so.
Naturally, it being near 90 F in Texas, I applied sunscreen. I don’t know about other athletes, but in this fathlete’s case, it’s de rigeur to smear some Chamois Butt’r on the ol’ derriere and inside my padded Sugoi bike shorts. Today I also chose some thicker wool socks and made sure I had both back-up inner tubes and my pump. Making sure I had my phone, keys, wallet, I did my ABCQ check: Air in the tires, Brakes working, Cassette/Chain ring working and oiled, and Quick Release to be sure the wheels were in securely. (Thanks, Safety Dave, for that lesson!) And then it was time to go before I lost the light. This paragraph heading reminds me of a 90’s rap lyric by The Offspring: “I’m pretty fly for a white guy.”
I Can Bike for Miles and Miles and Miles
My goal was 34 miles to make it to 100 for the week, and I wasn’t sure I’d make that. I headed for the movie theater in case I wanted to bail out and have an air-conditioned way to break up the ride. But in the back of my mind, I felt I had more in the tank, and as you can see, I rode 50. By itself, that may not sound like much, especially compared to many of the longer rides I’ve done over the past two years. I didn’t plan on 50, but once on the road and realizing I wouldn’t make it to a movie, and that I would pass 40 miles, I figured why not go for half a century?
Here’s the route I took, in a 10-second video video map on Relive. As you can see, I went a far piece. I favor loops though part of this was out and back on a road with a wide shoulder called Parmer Lane. Also known as a former Republican president who shall be unnamed here. (The anagram of his full name is Insane Anglo Warlorld! I shit you not.) Also, here’s the Strava map with some photos and data and stuff. I just had to quote LL Cool J in the title, having already used MC Hammer’s“2 Legit 2 Quit” and John Wick’s“Yeah, I”m thinking I’m back.” Because when you’re on a 4-hour bike ride, you have time to sing songs to yourself.
I also added these notes in the description:
“10! PR’s [Personal Records] — not bad. The trailer for Deadpool 2 has this LL Cool J classic rap in it, which got stuck in my head. For me, what I’m gonna knock out are the naysayers (sometimes.myself) telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do long rides on occasiom if I set my mind to it. “And all the girlies say I’m pretty fly for a white guy…” This ride will put some heron your chest. (That’s a heron in the pictures. Hey, don’t blame me, the O’Henry Pun-Off – www.punpunpun.com – is coming 5/12.)”
Getting into the mindset to go a distance further than what makes sense logically is interesting to me. I haven’t ridden 30 miles for a while, so shouldn’t I do that and 40 before 50? The last time I did 50 was October, am I crazy? It’s not just about my riding, but for anyone doing longer distances. Why do we do it? And how? I don’t know, but I think we do it because we can. There are some people I follow in Strava who are doing a heckuvalot more than I do on the bike. Many also run and/or swim, train for races and triathlons, and are kicking a shit-ton of ass. That’s all well and good. They inspire me, just as I hope those reading this who may not be able to do what I do are also similarly inspired. “Comparison is the death of joy,”Buddha said, remember?
Sport Hurts; It’s Worth It if You Can Manage Some Pain
Biking takes being tenacious and the willingness to suffer a bit. Not the “My children don’t have enough to eat” or “The US used drones to drop bombs on my Syrian village and my arm got blown off” kind of suffering. That’s serious. Mine is more along the lines of “The TV show Once Upon a Time is ending it’s run and I won’t get my dose of Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin and Cinderella living in Seattle anymore.” type of pain. So, not exactly comparable.
However, unrequited love can be excruciating, like torture. So Dania Ramirez, if you’re reading this, please get in touch. Tu eres increible, con mucho talento, graciosa, y si, tan bella que no tengo palabras para decirte cuanto estoy bien desviado y enamorado mirando a ti en un tamano muy grande que la vida en la tele. Anyway, A Dude is a big fan, wants to have your babies, and is able to speak Spanish pretty well! Practice with you will make perfect. I can be princely — charming, even!)
Sorry, I got a little distracted. But if you weren’t aware, yes, there is pain associated with most sport, and it is real. In fact, if you’re not hurting, you might not be applying enough effort. My legs got very tight and I had a cramp in one calf for a while. My ass and taint got pretty sore since I was out of practice, so I was squirming around on the saddle, standing on the pedals to get some rest, the wrists became numb, and a bug flew in my mouth. Still, it’s a choice to bike and create this temporary discomfort. If I were in better condition, weighed less and so on, it would be less of a struggle.
A racer named Death Valley Beth once told me “miles are mental.” At one point while I was doing my first century, I realized she was somewhat right. Assuming the body is capable, much of the resistance to it is in the mind. But sometimes the mind/body can do a lot more. It’s sports psychology. Adrenaline, competition, encouragement, visualization, will power, prizes, glory, simply improving oneself – these are all factors in what can lead to a higher level of performance than one expects of themselves or others think is possible. For me, the number of miles I do has been a big motivator, for some reason, for better or worse. (Ask me how I’m feeling tomorrow!)
What Goes Through One’s Brain Goes into the Legs
Whether it’s my daily yoga and walking practice, cutting out virtually all processed carbs, resting and napping, or daily biking due to being car-less, I have an ability to bike for longer periods. Plenty of people my weight, age, and health situation bike; I’m not special. But as someone once said, most people AREN’T doing it, and I am. That doesn’t make me superior; lots of people could and do do what I do, and faster and better, if they wanted. (Heh heh heh! I said doo-doo.)
However, alot of them have families, spouses, kids, jobs, houses, pets and cars. Since I don’t (at least I will have to get a job soon), sometimes I go out and kick my own ass on the bike. In so doing, I occasionally will exceed my own limitations. Motiviation is not hard to find. If you’re carrying extra pounds like I and most Americans are, it’s our duty to exercise our booty. Cycling certainly tones things up, even if muscle is covered with a protective layer of fat, I mean padding. Making the time is the hard part, next to doing it.
So, I was out there today, biking away, mapping in my head where to go, how fast, what to eat and drink. I strategized when to stop to rest, and when to pedal harder or easier. How much effort on hills, resting on downhills. But always pedaling, the miles ticking over: 1, 5, 10. Some easier than others. There was the focusing of my mind on the whole-body effort of staying upright by avoiding broken glass, stray branches and other debris. Not much room in there for worry about other stuff.
Of course, you have to be hypervigilant about cars and maintain awareness of their location in proximity to you at all times. Knowing your body, the roads and lighter Sunday traffic certainly helps. There’s no room for failure with cars screaming by, no support vehicle behind, and no insurance if something goes wrong. Having a Garmin watch to monitor heart rate, average speed, and time helps.
Recovery and Conclusion
After a ride it’s important to keep drinking and eating. Preferably protein and carbs, like a smoothie. A Dude likes rice cake with tahini and honey with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg or yogurt, fruit and nuts. Biking is fucking hard work, so you have to replenish the engine. The beneficial after-effects of exercise will continue to accrue. My next ride will be a good bit easier. But it pays off. I feel as if my body were a washcloth that has been wrung dry. There’s less stress and my mind, though tired, is relaxed and clear. I know I have done something a little bit special. Maybe it will get a dozen kudos on Strava, or 30 likes on this blog. But the main person I’ve impressed is me.
Yet there’s no satisfaction greater than going out there and kicking some butt, whatever that means for you. Whether that’s walking a mile or so in half and hour or running a marathon in under five hours, biking five or 50 miles, or whatever you can do that pushes you to do a little more than you planned or thought you could, that’s a good day. Even if it hurts like hell the next day. That’s how you know you’re on the right track. Whether you win any races, lose weight, or get the number of a cute woman you pass on the road or not, at least you tried. You’ve put in the work, seen some new things, and proven to yourself that today at least, you’re the master of your own domain. Go us!
How do you manage to excce your expectations and limitations to achieve greatness in biking or your chosen sport?
“Mama said knock you out, I’m gonna knock you out!”
–LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”
(Bet you didn’t know that stands for Ladies Love Cool James! You’re welcome.)
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A friend admitted the other day that she was enjoying walking more than bicycling around Austin lately. That’s because she notices more things going slower on two feet than on two wheels. I agreed that’s mostly true, but also said you still see some pretty cool stuff biking that you’d never notice whizzing by in a car. Today was no exception, and a beautiful spring day to boot. Please continue reading where it says Continue Reading! (Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom — WordPress inserts extra white space I can’t get rid of sometimes.) Continue reading →